A Canadian pastor was forced to dig endless holes in the ground as part of his “hard labor” imprisonment in North Korea. Hyeon Soo Lim, 62, spoke to a Mississauga, Ontario church on Sunday about his two years in a prison camp for “crimes agains the state” — a state that is not only communist but atheist and hostile to Christianity.
The pastor’s initial death sentence was reduced to life.
Lim was returned to Canada last week in the midst of a growing nuclear confrontation between North Korea and the U.S. after Canadian and Swedish diplomats secured his release. The North Koreans officially said the minister had been granted “sick bail,” meaning he was probably going to die from the conditions of his imprisonment.
Lim spoke in Korean at Light Presbyterian Church where he ministers, but provided an English translation of his sermon. He described solitary confinement, digging holes into the earth that measured three feet in diameter by three feet in depth, breaking coal into little pieces, and chronic bouts of sickness brought on by digging in all types of weather.
“During the winter, I had to dig holes that measured one metre [three feet] wide and one metre [three feet] deep. The ground was frozen. The mud was so hard that it took two days to dig one hole. 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,” he said.
He also described his “overwhelming loneliness” and eating “2,757 meals in isolation by myself. It was difficult to see when and how the entire ordeal would end.”
“In the spring and summer, I worked outside, eight hours a day, in the scorching sun.”
Lim said “he prayed without ceasing” during the ordeal and when not being worked to death he read books on North Korea and re-read the Bible in English and Korean five times.
Lim thanked the Canadian and Swedish governments for negotiating his release.