The pastor of a Korean megachurch in Canada was detained in a North Korean airport in February and appeared before media in Pyongyang on Thursday where he admitted to various alleged crimes against the Communist state, including "perpetrating a scheme to over throw the state."
"The most serious crimes I have committed are that I severely slandered and impaired the supreme dignity and system of this country and perpetrated a scheme to overthrow the state," said Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, the head pastor of Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, to a packed room of reporters at the People's Palace of Culture, a venue where North Korean authorities have arranged similar events in the past.
"In order to create the impression that it is God, and not the Worker's Party and this country's government which give things to eat and provide means to live, we intentionally drew the cross and wrote the name of the church and Bible phrases on the sacks of provisions that were donated to several parts of the country such as Chongjin and Jagang Province," added Lim in the forced statement. "The purpose that I travelled about several parts of the country on the pretext of "aid" was to build a base to overthrow the system.
Lim does humanitarian work in North Korea and has visited the country more than 100 times. He's helped establish orphanages and a nursing home there, according to Reuters.
His church issued a statement on Thursday and did not comment on the charges and allegations against him, but said "the humanitarian aid projects that Mr. Lim has both initiated and supported in the DPRK have been for the betterment of people."
Foreigners detained in North Korea are often coached to make statements such as these after they are released, according to Global News.
Lim has also been involved in several businesses in North Korea including ramen and wig factories, gas stations, and farms and fishing operations, according to Canadian media.
Lim's church assumed the pastor was missing when he was first detained by the North Korean government earlier this year.
Light Korean Presbyterian spokesman Lisa Pak told The Christian Post at the time that Lim was "an experienced traveler" who "knows the language and how to navigate the politics and culture wisely."
"[He] traveled to Rajin region to continue support for the on-going ministry of orphanages, nursery and nursing homes," said Pak in March of this year.
Lim was born in South Korea and moved to Canada in 1986. He's worked at Light Korean Presbyterian Church for 28 years.
North Korea's dictatorship under leader Kim Jong-Un discourages religion and Christianity. Open Doors USA, an organization dedicated to monitoring Christian persecution around the world, ranks the nation as No.1 for places where believers face the most persecution.
"The god-like worship of the leader, Kim Jong-Un, and his predecessors leaves little room for any other religion and Christians face unimaginable pressure in every sphere of life," said Open Doors on its website.
"Meeting with other Christians is virtually impossible. Anyone discovered engaging in unauthorized religious activity is subject to arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture and/or execution."