I am sure Joel Osteen would have told him that he was not concentrating on living his “Best Life Now”!
A Canadian pastor has been sentenced to a life of hard labour in North Korea after allegedly helping defectors flee the country and ‘spreading anti-government propaganda’.
Hyeon Soo Lim, a South Korean-born reverend from Toronto, has been in custody since January this year, was sentenced by a Pyongyang court after making a public confession to his ‘crimes’.
Pastor Lim’s church disputes the allegations, saying he was in North Korea on a purely humanitarian mission.
The Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, says the pastor had visited the North on numerous occasions to support work with orphanages and nursing homes.
Pastor Lim, who is in his early 60s, was sentenced by the Supreme Court following a brief trial, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported from Pyongyang.
The court found Lim guilty of joining the United States and South Korea in ‘fomenting an anti-North Korean human rights racket and fabricating and circulating propaganda tarnishing the North’s image’.
Lim, who was detained by North Korean authorities in January, was also accused of funding and helping defectors wanting to flee North Korea.
According to the court, Lim confessed to all the charges and showed ‘deep remorse’, Xinhua said.
In August the North released a video showing Lim attending a Sunday service at Pyongyang’s Pongsu Church and confessing to various charges in an address to a small congregation that included a number of foreigners.
‘I committed the gravest crime of insulting and defaming the top dignity and the leadership of the republic,’ Lim said in the video.
The otherwise closed North Korean judicial system have a habit of making foreign detainees confess to their crimes in public.
These officially scripted ‘pronouncements of guilt’ are known to have been used to as a premise to secure their eventual release.
Pyongyang views foreign missionaries with deep suspicion, though it allows some to undertake humanitarian work.
Although religious freedom is enshrined in the North’s constitution, it does not exist in practice and religious activities are restricted to officially recognised groups linked to the government.
A number of Christian missionaries have been arrested in recent years, with some of them only allowed to return home after intervention by high-profile political figures.
In November last year, South Korean-born U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae was released two years after being sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour for ‘plotting to overthrow the North Korean regime’.
Mr Bae was released along with another American detainee as the result of a secret mission to Pyongyang by US intelligence chief James Clapper.
In March last year an elderly Australian missionary, John Short, was arrested and held for 13 days, but was deported after signing a ‘confession’ and apology for distributing religious material.
South Korean Kim Jeong-Wook, a Christian missionary arrested in the North in October 2013, is currently serving hard labour for life for allegedly spying and operating an underground church.
The sentencing of Pastor Lim this week was announced just days after high-level talks between the two Koreas aimed at improving cross-border ties broke up in mutual recrimination.
It also came a week after the North came under stinging criticism for the second consecutive year in the UN Security Council over its human rights record.
The council meeting was chaired by the United States, whose ambassador Samantha Power said Pyongyang’s rights abuses represented ‘a level of horror unrivalled in the world’.