Canadian citizen Hyeon Soo Lim was convicted in December of plotting to overthrow the North Korean government, and since then has languished in a hard labor camp. The 62-year-old senior pastor of the Toronto-area Light Korean Presbyterian Church has lost weight and is slower in his responses.
Ottawa says it is doing everything in its power to get Lim out of prison and in the interest of his case, it won’t divulge many details on its exact efforts to make that happen. Canadian consular officials have visited him twice in Pyongyang where he is serving a life sentence.
But frustration is growing among Canadians tracking the case who say Ottawa is “too silent,” and should take the initiative and engage and pressure North Korea more directly on setting Lim free. What’s necessary, said several people contacted by CBC News, is a well-tested U.S.-style intervention that combines contact and pressure.
“It’s clear as day what needs to be done,” said the Canadian source. “The prime minister has to write a letter to the chairman [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] requesting release or pardon.” A higher-level emissary could also travel to Pyongyang to negotiate with the leadership there, said the source.
American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was convicted of subversion in North Korea, is also advising that Ottawa do more. He is in Toronto this week to raise the profile of Lim’s case. “[The North Koreans] want some sort of gesture from the Canadian government to save their face. They need an excuse to let him go.”
Lim appeared in an interview with CNN earlier this year. Bae says allowing the interview was a clear signal to Ottawa that they were willing to negotiate.