The South Korea-born pastor of a suburban Toronto church has failed to return from a humanitarian trip to North Korea, causing the Canadian government to try to ascertain his whereabouts.
Officials at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church, based in Mississauga, Ontario, told Reuters that they had not heard from 60-year-old Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim since Jan. 31, four days after he departed Toronto for South Korea, with plans to travel on to China and North Korea. The church said it had expected to hear from Lim on Feb. 4, but did not. Officials said that they waited for another 21 days to hear from Lim to allow for a possible Ebola quarantine by North Korea.
Church spokeswoman Lisa Pak claimed that Lim has made hundreds of trips to North Korea, where he helps oversee a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage in the northeastern city of Raijin. He immigrated to Canada from South Korea in 1986 and has been head pastor at the 3,000-member church for 28 years.
"This is not an unusual trip for him ... he's not a tourist who got lost, he speaks Korean, he's been there many times," Pak told Reuters. "We didn't want to cause unnecessary hysteria, just make sure he is OK. He's very non-political; he just wants to help the people."
Canada, like the United States, advises against traveling to North Korea, which has cracked down on Christian missionaries in recent months. Government officials told Reuters they had reached out to Kim's family and offered consular assistance, but declined to comment further.