North Korea on Wednesday announced that a Canadian missionary who had been imprisoned since 2015 was released on humanitarian grounds. Lim Hyeon-soo had been sentenced to a life term of forced labour for committing hostile acts against the state.
He was released on medical and humanitarian grounds, according to the Central Court of North Korea, the state-owned KCNA news agency reported.
The Canadian citizen of Korean origin had travelled to North Korea through China in January 2015 and was detained by North Korean authorities the same month.
In a trial held around the end of 2015 in Pyongyang, the country’s highest court found Lim guilty of having conspired to overthrow the regime as a part of an alleged conspiracy by the governments of the US and South Korea.
The missionary was also found guilty of having carried out subversive activities with the intention of damaging the dignity of the supreme leadership and the social system of North Korea.
Lim, a sexagenarian head of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga (near Toronto), had admitted to the accusations in a confession released in July 2015 by KCNA.
However, several organisations denounced it as a likely case of a confession forced by authorities.
The Canadian’s release comes at a moment of elevated tensions in the Korean peninsula, as Kim Jong-un’s regime and US President Donald Trump’s administration have strengthened their rhetoric against each other.
Lim’s release came just months after the death of US citizen Otto Warmbier, who had been incarcerated in North Korea for 17 months and was sent back to his country in a comatose state.