Canada's election gives hope to family of Hyeon Soo Lim

The Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim traveled into North Korea from China on January 30.

Story highlights

  • The family of a Canadian pastor detained in North Korea seeks help from newly elected prime minister Justin Trudeau
  • Lim's family tells CNN they hope the North Korean government "will release our father ... in time for the holiday season"

New York (CNN)Nearly 10 months into the detention of a Canadian pastor in North Korea, there is an inflection point for his family.

A new set of state officials in Canada, loaded into power after the victory of Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party in a general election last month, are now in charge of bringing home the Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim.
    It's a hopeful moment for his family and church in Mississauga, Ontario.
    "We are eager to see the diligent efforts of the newly elected Canadian officials," the family said.
    A gathering of world leaders next week in the Philippines could be a starting point, Lisa Pak, a spokeswoman for the pastor's family and church, Light Korean Presbyterian Church, said in a statement.
    "We are hoping that the Trudeau government takes full advantage of whatever means and platform available, i.e. APEC, to bring international awareness to Mr. Lim's detainment that would help move diplomatic talks to a speedy and positive resolution," Pak said, referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation convening next week in Manila.
    Lim, 60, traveled into North Korea from China on January 30 on a routine humanitarian trip, according to Pak.
    He had visited the country over 100 times, his family said, and had planned on this visit to tend to aid projects established by his church in the northeastern city of Rajin.
    Official language from Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development -- under the new Trudeau government, sworn in last week -- remained as it has since Lim's detention was first acknowledged in March: "Canada is deeply concerned with the case of Mr. Lim who remains detained in North Korea," François Lasalle, a spokesman, said on Wednesday.
    But behind the scenes, the Canadian government has been waging an aggressive campaign to win Lim's freedom, according to a source with knowledge of the proceedings.
    Two delegations from the Canadian Embassy in Seoul have held backchannel meetings with North Korean officials in Pyongyang, most recently after Canadian Thanksgiving in October.
    And Canadian consular officials in New York have spoken informally with North Korean delegates on the sidelines of United Nations meetings, the source said.
    Word on the pastor from the reclusive country, with which Canada has limited diplomatic relations, had been slow to his family before a news conference held in Pyongyang in July.
    In his first public appearance since his detention, Lim read from a statement and confessed to activities aimed at toppling the government of North Korea, according to North Korea's state-run news agency KCNA.
    Westerners held previously in North Korea have said their confessions were given under pressure from the state.
    In a statement provided exclusively to CNN on Wednesday, Lim's family addressed the government holding the pastor for the first time since his arrest.
    "We ask the DPRK to consider his recent capitulation to the state's charges for his misguided, though utterly sincere, efforts to serve the North Korean people. We are hopeful that the DPRK will release our father in a true show of mercy and compassion in time for the holiday season," the family said in the emailed statement.