A Canadian pastor imprisoned in North Korea has been freed after two and a half years in detention.
Hyeon Soo Lim, North Korea’s longest-held western prisoner in decades, was “released on sick bail” Wednesday by the country’s top court for “humanitarian” reasons, state-run news agency KCNA said.
Lim’s son, James Lim, received word over the weekend that a plane carrying senior Canadian officials, a medical doctor, and a letter to North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un was dispatched to Pyongyang “at the last minute,” according to family spokeswoman Lisa Pak. The plane landed in the North Korean capital Monday.
Lim was serving a life sentence of hard labor after being convicted of crimes against the state in December 2015. The 62-year-old’s health has deteriorated while in North Korean custody and the pastor has experienced “dramatic” weight loss, Pak said.
Lim’s family had stepped up calls for his release since the death of American university student Otto Warmbier in June. Warmbier was on a sightseeing tour of North Korea when he was detained in early 2016 and later charged with attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel.
He died just six days after his release from North Korea due to a brain injury sustained while in custody. He was in a vegetative state when he returned home to his family near Cincinnati, Ohio.