According to state media, North Korea has released Canadian pastor Rim Hyon Su, also known as Hyeon Soo Lim, on humanitarian grounds.
Accusing the pastor of using religion as a ruse to overthrow Kim Jong-un, the North Korean government sentenced Lim to life imprisonment in Dec. 2015.
Lim stated in an interview with CNN last year that he was the only prisoner in his camp and was forced to dig holes eight hours a day, six days a week. He also wrote to his family members about his stomach pains and high blood pressure. Though he did receive a Bible when he asked for one, he continued to pray daily.
Lim, who was born in South Korea, pleaded guilty to preaching against the worship of Kim, which North Koreans are required to do.
Though the state has a constitution guaranteeing religious freedom, it is officially atheist and, according to Human Rights Watch, harshly prosecutes those who practice religion.
The American non-profit Open Doors, which aids persecuted Christians, lists North Korea as the most oppressive nation for Christians in the world. It estimates that there are 300,000 Christians in the nation of 25 million.
Lim’s family confirmed that the pastor, who led Toronto’s Light Korean Presbyterian Church, had traveled to North Korea more than 100 times since 1997, where his church supported an orphanage and donated food.
Lim, who is in his sixties, was released just a day after Canada announced that it had sent officials to North Korea to discuss freeing the pastor due to increasing concern over his welfare.
Otto Warmbier, an American student released from North Korean detainment in a coma in June, died from brain damage just six days after returning home. Since Warmbier’s Death, the U.S. State Department has installed a ban, going into effect on September 1, on American travel to North Korea. Those who want travel to the country for humanitarian missions will have to apply for a special passport.
While very little Americans will travel to the country anytime soon, there are still at least three Americans in North Korean custody: businessman Kim Dong-chul, academic Kim Sang-duk and self-described Christian missionary Kim Hak-song.
Featured image via Wikipedia