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article imageOp-Ed: North Korea sentences Canadian pastor to life and hard labour

By Ken Hanly     Dec 16, 2015 in World
Pyongyang - The North Korean Supreme Court has sentenced Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim to life in prison with hard labour. The state prosecutors had actually sought the death penalty.
The Court described Lim's activities as crimes against the state. These included harming the dignity of the supreme leadership, attempting to use religion to destroy the North Korean system, and disseminating negative propaganda about North Korea to Koreans overseas. The charges also included helping U.S. and South Korean authorities to lure and abduct North Korean citizens, and helping them to assist defectors. Perhaps some of these charges are correct. Some of the charges would never merit punishment in many countries.
If harming the dignity of the leadership of the U.S., President Barack Obama, were a crime punishable by imprisonment, even the U.S. military-industrial-prison complex would be hard pressed to keep up to the demand for more prisons. North Korea joins a select group such as Egypt, the Gulf monarchies, and Thailand who consider any criticism of their Great Leaders as a crime.
Lim supports a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage in North Korea. He has made more than 100 trips to North Korea. He was scheduled to return on February 4 this year after a visit but was detained by authorities.
Given that the authorities have allowed Lim to establish his humanitarian institutions in the North, and also to allow him to travel back and forth numerous times, it is strange that they should suddenly seize and charge him. They could have simply told him he was no longer welcome in North Korea before and not allowed him to return, or alternatively they could have kicked him out in February and told him he could not come back. Instead, the authorities apparently decided to make him some sort of example of how foreign humanitarian assistance is designed to undermine the Korean regime. The result will simply be to further strengthen negative international sentiment about North Korea.
Reverend Lim is pastor at the 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto. Lisa Pak, spokesperson for the church said: "There was a press conference in Pyongyang, and he was asked to go and say some statements about his allegations and charges. The Chinese media and the state media were there. That's the most that we know, that the press conference happened and he admitted, I use that word very lightly, to some charges." Quite possibly he was tortured but apparently those accused may admit guilt when they are promised a lighter sentence for doing so. Lim's lawyer noted Lim had confessed to his offences, asked for another chance, and had promised he would not do anything bad again.This probably saved him from the death penalty. Had Lim been a North Korean, he might just have disappeared or have received the death penalty.
The department of Global Affairs Canada Canada expressed dismay at the harsh sentence given Lim's "age and fragile health." He is hardly fit for hard labour. The department said that it made repeated attempts to meet with Lim in custody. Canada has no diplomatic relations with North Korea. Spokesperson for the department, Diana Khaddaj, said: "This is a serious violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the right of states to have consular access to their citizens, Like Mr. Lim's family and friends, the government of Canada remains concerned for his rights and well-being, and wishes to see him return to Canada."
There appears little consistency in how violations of the law are treated in North Korea. An Australian missionary, simply apologized for his missionary activity last year and was deported. North Korea has very stringent rules about religious activity. Just leaving a Bible in a public place could land a person in jail. Just last year North Korea released Kenneth Bae, an American Korean missionary who also was convicted of crimes against the state and was given 15 years. He had medical problems while in detention. US intelligence official, James Clapper, went to North Korea and arranged his release.
Perhaps something similar could be arranged to release Lim. Perhaps, Canada can enlist the aid of Dennis Rodman the NBA star who is a friend of Kim Jong-un. Kim is a huge fan of the NBA and he also loves attention. He might very well decide to show how "magnanimous" he is and release the Toronto pastor if some important person in the west, such as Rodman, asks him to do so.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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