North Korea has released a Canadian pastor who was serving a life sentence of hard labour, the country’s official KCNA news agency said on Wednesday.
“Rim Hyon Su, a Canadian civilian, was released on sick bail according to the decision of the Central Court of the DPRK on August 9, 2017, from the humanitarian viewpoint,” it said, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Also known as Hyeon Soo Lim, the pastor served at one of the largest churches in Canada. He was sentenced to hard labour for life in December 2015 for what North Korea says was an attempt to overthrow the regime.
The 62-year-old reverend, who was born in South Korea, is reportedly in poor health.
A spokesperson for his family was unable to confirm the news of his release.
The family “has not heard anything of the kind,” Lisa Pak told CBC News. “We are indeed hoping to have him home.”
CBC News reported on Tuesday that a top Canadian security official had arrived in North Korea to negotiate his release.
The negotiations got underway amid heightened tensions between Pyongyang and Washington over the former’s missile and nuclear weapons tests. The isolated state said it is considering an attack against the U.S. territory of Guam after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened it with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
Lim is pastor of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont. The church has said he had visited North Korea more than 100 times since 1997 and helped set up an orphanage and nursing home.