News Toronto


Family of Mississauga pastor freed from North Korean 'so happy'

By Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun

Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim is seen in footage after his release from North Korean prison (ANN News)

Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim is seen in footage after his release from North Korean prison (ANN News)

Oh, the stories Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim will be able to tell about his 2 1/2 years behind bars in communist North Korea.

But first he’s got to tell them to the good guys who got him out of there.

And get a good sleep, shower, some fresh clothes and some decent food.

“I am pleased and relieved to confirm that Pastor Lim has been released from jail in North Korea and that he will soon be reunited with his family and friends in Canada,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement early Thursday.

Soon is the relative word.

His family and friends — as well as his vibrant congregation at Mississauga Light Presbyterian Church — can hardly wait.

But first things first.

Debriefing time. Adjustment time. Medical assessment time. Decompression. “A psychological debriefing process,” said a source close to this.

Similar to the troops returning from Afghanistan.

Sources say a Government of Canada jet carrying a newly-freed Canadian hightailed it out of Pyongyang Thursday, but when it will touch down on Canadian soil is as secretive as was the whole repatriation operation.

The good news is 62-year-old Lim will be home in short order.

The even better news is his health appears have withstood the rigours of a hard labour camp where — without much food or medicine for his high blood pressure — he was forced to dig holes and move rocks as part of his sentence for what North Korea claimed was his effort to overthrow the government while doing humanitarian and Christian mission work.

“He will need some time of recovery but from all accounts his health is OK and for that we thank the Lord,” said his spokesman and friend Lisa Pak. “I am so grateful to Prime Minister Trudeau — for everybody who helped make this happen.”

Pak makes an excellent point when she says “we shouldn’t forget not only those other people who are detained but also that North Korean people are vastly different from the regime.”

She adds Lim’s wife and son, James, “are so relieved and so happy.”

It is true, perhaps, if Trudeau or his predecessor, Stephen Harper, had stepped into this battle earlier, perhaps Lim could have been home sooner. It seems North Korea responds to top leaders.

But it is also true that Trudeau deserves full marks for sending over this delegation at this time of tension between North Korean Dear Leader Kim Jong Un and American President Donald Trump.

You have to give credit where it is due — and it is due here.

The next step is for the Canadian to step back on Canadian soil — and that could come at any time.

“We are ready,” said Pak. “A lot of people will be coming to the church and are so anxious to see pastor again.”

And to hear him preach again — with some great lessons and tales from his frightening experiences in a North Korean prison.

What a story he has to tell.