‘I Prayed Without Ceasing’: Freed Canadian Pastor Details Hard Labor Sentence in North Korea

TORONTO — A Canadian pastor who had been sentenced to hard labor for life but was released last week on “sick bail,” outlined to his church on Sunday that he prayed without ceasing during the ordeal and stayed close to the Scriptures.

“While I was laboring, I prayed without ceasing,” Hyeon Soo Lim, 62, pastor of Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, told those gathered.

Lim, who served 2 1/2 years of his sentence, said that he spent his days digging holes and breaking up pieces of coal.

“During the winter, I had to dig holes that measured one meter wide and one meter deep. The ground was frozen. The mud was so hard that it took two days to dig one hole,” he recalled. “It was incredibly challenging. My upper body was sweating, my fingers and toes were frostbitten. I also worked inside a coal storage facility, breaking apart coal.”

“In the spring and summer, I worked outside, eight hours a day, in the scorching sun,” Lim said.

He also recalled being in solitary confinement and the “overwhelming loneliness” that he faced.

“From the first day of my detainment to the day I was released, I ate 2,757 meals in isolation by myself,” Lim said. “It was difficult to see when and how the entire ordeal would end.”

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During his first year in captivity, Lim had no Bible, so he spent any time not working reading books and watching the films that were available—but they were all about North Korea. When he was finally provided with Korean and English Bibles, he read through the entire Bible five times and memorized over 700 verses.

As previously reported, the pastor had traveled to the country two years ago to build an orphanage, nursery and nursing home. He had visited the nation over 100 times in the past 20 years.

However, while carrying out his mission, he was taken into custody in February 2015 and accused of committing hostile acts against the North Korean regime. In December of that year, Lim was put on trial and sentenced to indefinite hard labor.

His health soon also began to decline as he complained of stomach pain and high blood pressure. Lim likewise lost a significant amount of weight through the ordeal. On Sunday, he noted that he lost approximately 50 pounds, but his condition improved after a time.

Lim said that as he prayed, his feelings of “discouragement, resentment and grumbling” became “courage, joy and thanksgiving.”

“It’s a miracle for me to be here today,” he stated. “I always knew Canada was a very warm and compassionate nation, but through my ordeal I really began to grasp that very deeply.”

The pastor was released from North Korea last Wednesday and returned to Canada the following day.

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