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Canadian citizen reported missing in North Korea

A pastor who's visited the isolated country more than 100 times suddenly lost contact with his community in January.

By Elizabeth Shim
Canadian citizen reported missing in North Korea
A Canadian citizen reportedly has gone missing inside North Korea since late January. Hyeon Soo Lim, pastor and founder of a major Korean-Canadian church in the Toronto area, may be under North Korea's mandatory Ebola quarantine, a Canadian church official said Monday. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

TORONTO, March 2 (UPI) -- A Canadian citizen was reported missing in North Korea more than three weeks after friends and relatives lost contact with the man in late January.

Hyeon Soo Lim, pastor and founder of a major Korean-Canadian church in the Toronto area, is no stranger to North Korea, friends and relatives said. Lim has traveled to North Korea on humanitarian missions on numerous occasions since 1997, reported Yonhap.

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Lim, 60, left Canada on Jan. 27. Those in contact with Lim said his arrival at the North Korean port city of Najin was confirmed on Jan. 30. Communication was lost after Lim arrived in Pyongyang on Jan. 31.

Lim's January visit to the secluded country was humanitarian in aim, the Toronto Star reported Sunday.

RELATED North Korea to lift Ebola-related travel ban, says tour operator

Church spokeswoman Lisa Pak told the Canadian press the church cannot assume the worst, given North Korea's policy to quarantine foreigners for 21 days as part of the country's strict border measures against the Ebola epidemic.

But on Monday a North Korea travel specialist said the Ebola-related ban may be lifted.

Park told the Toronto Star there have been communication delays with Lim during previous North Korean visits. She said the pastor has traveled to North Korea more than 100 times and the church wants to mitigate unfounded fears or concerns.

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Local politician and longtime friend, Raymond Cho, however, said he is not so certain that Lim is in safe hands.

Lim immigrated to Canada from his native South Korea in 1986. Over time, he grew his church from just five families to a congregation that includes more than 3,000 members.

Lim is familiar with North Korea's restrictions against religious activity inside its borders, Pak told the Canadian press.

RELATED Defector: North Korean slave labor system earns regime billions

In 2014, American Jeffrey Fowle was detained in North Korea for leaving a bible in a public area but was released after five months of detention in North Korea.

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