TORONTO – That a Canadian citizen has vanished into the darkness of North Korea may go down as one of our country’s saddest chapters.
We do know tyrannical North Korea claims it has conducted an illegal nuclear test and that many of its citizens shamefully face famine. What we don’t know is how it has affected imprisoned Mississauga Christian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim.
“We don’t have any idea where he is,” said Lisa Pak of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga. “We don’t know his condition.”
That a Canadian citizen is believed to be in a North Korean labour camp is a disgrace that should not be tolerated for one more minute.
“It has been all quiet for information on the North Korean front and on the Ottawa (front) too,” said Pak. “It is so frustrating for his family.”
The last word on Pastor Lim was that Canadian consular representatives met with him Dec. 18, after the North Korean court sentenced him to life in prison.
After that the 60-year-old pastor disappeared.
“We believe he’s in Pyongyang but don’t really know,” said Pak.
The prime minister’s office has yet to respond to my questions sent late Friday but Pak said it has been crickets from Ottawa.
“If there are diplomatic discussions going on we don’t know about it,” she said.
With North Korea’s claimed detonation of a hydrogen bomb, she’s doubtful progress will be made.
“The nuclear test has just made diplomatic talks more difficult,” said Pak. “After the test, the international community is less willing to have any sort of talks with the DPRK”
The bottom line is Canada must get our guy out of that hellhole now.
“It’s reprehensible that North Korea has jailed Pastor Lim for no reason but Canada must do more,” said Dr. Charles McVety of Canada Christian College. “It seems governments are treating Pastor Lim as if he is Korean when he is 100% Canadian.”
Other imprisoned Canadians — Mohamed Fahmy and Omar Khadr — have been brought home. For Lim there’s an online “freepastorlim-bringlimhome” petition on change.org with 118,000 signatures.
After a 30-minute trial, the Mississauga husband and father was convicted of trying to harm “the dignity of the supreme leadership” of Kim Jong Un. Spared the death penalty, he was sentenced to hard labour.
It’s obscene for a man who operated nursery schools, seniors’ residences, orphanages and a food program.
Pak fears Lim could be starving himself.
“He’d been to North Korea more than 100 times since 1997 and helps people. It doesn’t make sense,” she said.
What makes even less sense is Canada’s weak response.
When Lim was convicted, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “We are very concerned about someone being sentenced to life in North Korea and we certainly hope to be able to engage with this individual and stand up for his rights.”
The PM said Canada would continue “to press North Korea authorities” to which the communist leadership shot back that “public officials of Canada, including its premier, have been rashly unleashing malicious slander against our republic” and “we cannot suppress outrage that the Canadian government dares to pick a quarrel.”
Who cares what they think?
Trudeau needs to reach in and harness the toughness he showed boxing with Senator Patrick Brazeau and punch back — warning if there is ever to be one more Canadian dollar in humanitarian aid sent there, Lim must be freed now.
Short of sending in the Canadian Armed Forces Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) to extract him, Trudeau should put the legalization of marijuana on hold and put former Toronto Police Chief and Scarborough MP Bill Blair on a plane for Pyongyang with a letter for Kim Jong Un demanding the immediate release of our man with no conditions.
If Blair or another Canadian representative were to leave with Pastor Lim like when we saw former President Bill Clinton rescue two American journalists, it would be one of Canada’s greatest moments.