A Toronto pastor serving a life sentence in North Korea has been freed on humanitarian grounds, the country's state media reported Wednesday, but Canadian officials remain mum on the whereabouts and condition of Hyeon Soo Lim.
The South Korean-born pastor of Toronto's Light Korean Presbyterian Church had pleaded guilty to trying to undermine the worship of Kim, which is required of all North Koreans.
A Canadian delegation, led by the country's national security adviser, Daniel Jean, took up Lim's case after arriving in North Korea earlier in the week.
The North is still holding three USA citizens and at least six South Koreans.
His release came as relations between Pyongyang and Washington deteriorated further after President Trump vowed to respond to North Korea "with fire and fury" following the latter's threat to launch a missile strike on the Pacific island of Guam, a USA territory.
The missionary was also found guilty of having carried out subversive activities with the intention of damaging the dignity of the supreme leadership and the social system of North Korea.
Pak said that the pastor's health had worsened while in North Korean custody and he had also experienced dramatic weight loss.
The U.N. Security Council on Saturday adopted Resolution 2371 to toughen sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs.
Lim, a native of South Korea, is the spiritual leader of one of Canada's largest churches.
Previous year he was digging holes for eight hours a day in a labour camp, but claimed he was the "sole prisoner" when he spoke to CNN.
"Our government welcomes the release of pastor Lim Hyeon-soo, who had been detained in North Korea", Cho June-hyuck, spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a press briefing.
"We are relieved to hear that Reverend Lim is on his way home to finally reunite with his family and meet his grand daughter for the first time", Lisa Pak, a spokesperson for Lim's family, told CNN.
He and church colleagues travelled to countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea on charitable visits. He has made over 100 trips to the North since 1997 and helps to run nursing home and orphanages there.
"We have been consistently requesting the North Korean government to release and return our citizens held captive there".