A group of pastors who worked closely with Lim Hyeon-soo, a Korean-Canadian pastor who confessed to attempting to overthrow North Korea, claim the detained pastor made a false confession against his will.
Lim, the head pastor of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, has been detained in the North since early February, when he was arrested in Pyongyang while traveling on a humanitarian mission.
Last week, Lim made his first public appearance at a news conference in Pyongyang and confessed to slandering and conspiring to subvert the state.
“I have so far malignantly defamed the dignity and social system of [North Korea],” the 60-year-old pastor said, according to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.
During the news conference, Lim provided the names of pastors in the United States and South Korea who he said were involved in attempting to overthrow the state.
Kim Kyong-sik, one of the pastors named, defended Lim, telling VOA that the Canadian pastor was forced to make false statements.
“They know better than anyone else that he has been providing aid for nonpolitical and humanitarian reasons. It is quite obvious he was forced to say these things, and I find it very regrettable,” said Kim, who leads a Korean-American church in St. Louis, Missouri.
Members of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church refused to comment on the charges against the pastor and called for his quick release.
“We have no intention of rebutting the charges brought against him. We just want to emphasize that all his activities were humanitarian efforts to improve the lives of North Korean people. He made more than 100 trips to the North, all out of an overflowing amount of love for the people there,” said Pyo In-kweon, who is leading a campaign for Lim’s release.
Pyo expressed hope that Lim could be released on the August 15 anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule, a big celebration in both Koreas, adding that the Canadian government was actively working for the release of the pastor.
On Tuesday, Pyongyang denied allegations that Lim had made a false confession under coercion. It accused South Korea and foreign media of “spreading misinformation.”
Lim ran various humanitarian projects to support nurseries and orphanages in the North for nearly 20 years. The pastor was born in South Korea and immigrated to Canada in 1986.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.