Colleagues of Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim, 60, a minister at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, initially assumed he had been detained under North Korea's strict quarantine regulations, introduced in response to the Ebola virus, which dictate that foreigners traveling to the country must spend 21 days in isolation in order to prevent the virus from spreading within its borders.
However, the church filed a missing persons report with authorities last week after 21 days passed without word from Lim, who had been due to finish his trip, one of more than 100 humanitarian aid missions carried out by the pastor to North Korea, on February 4.
"Every now and then (there has been) a delay here or there but never to this extent," church spokesperson Lisa Pak told the Toronto Star. "We are talking about North Korea — so we can’t be certain about why they make many of their decisions but we do want to be respectful of their government," she continued.
The Globe and Mail, one of Canada's leading newspapers, raised the issue on Monday of the Canadian government's difficulties in establishing contact with North Korean authorities over the disappearance of Reverend Lim; Canada has severed diplomatic ties with the country and imposed sanctions banning trade. In 2007, reports the paper, the release of Canadian humanitarian aid worker Je Yell Kim from North Korea was agreed to only when the Seoul-based Canadian ambassador to South Korea, Ted Lipman, traveled to the North to negotiate with the authorities in Pyongyang.