Members of the Light Presbyterian Church in Canada are urging government officials to intervene on the behalf of their pastor who is serving a life sentence in a North Korean prison.
Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who traveled frequently to North Korea for charity and humanitarian work, was sentenced to hard labor for life in 2015.
Lim began his work in the country in 2014 and made more than 100 trips helping orphanages, nursing homes, and nurseries. The Toronto Star reports that all his trips were apolitical and intended to help people.
However, North Korea charged him with "harming the dignity of the supreme leader," "trying to use religion to destroy North Korea" and "assisting North Korean's escape."
Lim pleaded guilty to all the charges. Now his congregation is asking the government to step in just like they have for two other Canadians: Homa Hoodfar, who was imprisoned in Iran, and Kevin Garratt, who was held in China.
"We know that in both cases the highest level of government officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself, were instrumental in securing the release of these fellow Canadians," a statement issued by the church said. "We urge the Canadian government to demonstrate the same attention and determination when engaging in diplomatic talks with the North Korean officials."
Canada's Global Affairs spokesperson Kristine Racicot told The Toronto Star the federal government is concerned for Lim's well-being.
"We have been fully engaged in this case since it began," Racicot said in an email statement. "Minister (Stéphane) Dion has met with Pastor Lim's son and consular officials are providing assistance to Mr. Lim and his family."
Lisa Pak, a spokesperson for Lim's family, said the Canadian government has been in touch with the family. Lim's family last saw him in January when CNN televised an exclusive interview with him.
"At that time, there were concerns about his health," Pak said. "At this point, we are very concerned that his health may have declined and those concerns are heightened precisely because we have no information."
Pak said that the recent release of Garratt and Hoodfar has been encouraging.
"We would love to see him home as soon as possible," Pak said.