Toronto-area pastor Hyeon Soo Lim was reunited with his family in Ontario today after more than two years in detention in North Korea.
The pastor’s son James Lim spoke to the media at a press conference Saturday afternoon, saying his dad was happy to be back home in Canada and grateful to the Canadian government and Canadian people for their support.
Lim landed in Ontario Saturday morning and is resting. He did not appear at the news conference.
James Lim said his dad was in “good health,” but noted that the family planned to arrange for extended medical attention, including checkups.
“He is doing very well, considering everything he has gone through,” he said.
He joked that his father wanted to stop at Tim Hortons for coffee and a doughnut on his way home from Trenton air base, where he landed earlier this morning.
The family thanked the Canadian government for helping secure Lim’s release.
They declined to provide details on negotiations with the North Koreans.
“It’s a delicate dance. There’s a lot of complexity to it,” James Lim said.
But he said family here in Canada never gave out hope that his father would be released.
Reuniting with the family
The 62-year-old pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont., just outside Toronto, had requested a private reunion with his family and did not appear at the news conference.
He has a granddaughter, not yet one year old, who he is meeting today for the first time.
Global Affairs Canada issued a statement on Lim’s release Saturday asking that his family’s request for privacy be respected.
“Today, we join Pastor Lim’s family and congregation in celebrating his long-awaited return to Canada,” the agency said. “Canada has been actively engaged on Mr. Lim’s case at all levels, and we will continue to support him and his family now that he has returned.”
Sentenced to life of hard labour
Lim and his family had not seen each other in person since the pastor was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to a life of hard labour in prison for crimes against the state.
He was freed earlier this week, after a six-member Canadian delegation, led by Daniel Jean, who serves as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser, travelled to Pyongyang. The delegation travelled back with the Presbyterian pastor.
They flew to the Yokota Airbase in Japan from Pyongyang on Thursday, after North Korea’s Central Court granted Lim “sick bail” on humanitarian grounds.
From there, the Royal Canadian Air Force CC-144 Challenger aircraft flew across the Pacific Ocean, making stopovers in Guam, Honolulu and Vancouver. It landed at Trenton, about 170 kilometres east of Toronto, on Saturday morning.
The Canadian delegation was dispatched from Ottawa to the reclusive regime last Saturday. The team spent 40 hours in Pyongyang, from Tuesday evening until Thursday morning, holding talks with senior North Korean officials.