Sweden has stepped in to discuss what could be done to help a Canadian megachurch pastor currently imprisoned in North Korea for "crimes against the state."
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In December last year, Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Ontario was handed a sentence of life in prison with hard labor for his alleged crimes against the state. Since Canada has no embassy in the reclusive nation, the Swedish ambassador in the country has discussed the pastor's situation with North Korea, The Associated Press reports.
According to Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency, an official from the Foreign Ministry talked with the Swedish ambassador regarding consular access for Pastor Lim. Although no other details on the meeting were released, the pastor's family expressed gratitude for the efforts to help Lim return home.
"We would like to extend our particular gratitude to the Swedish officials for their ongoing support and work in aiding our government on behalf of our family," Lim's family told The Canadian Press. "We hope to see him home soon."
Earlier this year, Canada was accused of not taking clear initiatives for the release of the Canadian megachurch pastor. An insider told CBC News that North Korea had relayed to Ottawa the steps that would increase Lim's chances of returning home.
CBC notes that the senior pastor has already lost weight and is in pain. Canadian consular officials have visited him a couple of times in Pyongyang, but no details on the efforts to free him have been divulged.
Canadians who are monitoring Pastor Lim's case have reportedly grown frustrated over Ottawa's silence. They have urged the government to pressure North Korea more on freeing the elderly pastor.
A Canadian source, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said their prime minister has to write a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un requesting Pastor Lim's release or pardon. The publication notes that only Kim has the power to grant pardon to a prisoner.