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Interview: Jailed Canadian Pastor Digs Holes in N. Korea Labor Camp

FILE - Hyeon Soo Lim, center, who pastors the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, is escorted to his sentencing in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who was sentenced last month to life at hard labor in a North Korean prison, said during a CNN interview Sunday he spends eight hours a day, six days a week digging holes in an apple orchard.

"I wasn't originally a laborer, so the labor was hard at first," Lim said in Korean through an interpreter. "But now I've gotten used to it."

Even though Lim speaks and understands English, North Korea required he speak in Korean for the CNN interview, which was conducted in a Pyongyang hotel.

Lim, who was charged with attempting to overthrow the North's government, also told CNN that he is being held in a labor camp with apparently no other prisoners.

Lim was detained early in 2015 while on what his church said was a humanitarian mission to a nursing home and orphanage that he had established in North Korea.

'Defaming' North Korea

At his sentencing last month, North Korea said he had admitted all charges against him, including “viciously defaming” the North Korean system and its leader, and plotting to overthrow the state.

The South Korean-born Lim, who was 60 when he was arrested, is the head pastor at the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, one of Canada's largest churches.

He appeared on North Korean state television in July and confessed to crimes against the state.

"I admit I've violated this government's authority, system and order," Lim said in the interview. Asked if his biggest crime was speaking badly of the North's leaders, he said: "Yes, I think so."

Other foreigners who have been detained in North Korea and later released have said they were forced to make similar statements.


In the CNN interview, Lim said he receives three meals a day and regular medical attention; his church has said Lim has "very high blood pressure."

He told the CNN interviewer that he has asked for a Bible but has not received it yet, and that he prays every day that North and South Korea become unified.

Canada has protested the “unduly harsh” sentence and complained that consular officials had been denied access to Lim.