The family of a megachurch pastor has reportedly been informed by Canadian officials that he is being held in North Korea after he mysteriously vanished while on a humanitarian mission inside the secretive East Asian country.
Hyeon Soo Lim, 60, pastor of the 3,000-member Light Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Canada, has not spoken with his family since January 31; he was expected to return home on February 4, but failed to do so.
The pastor's family announced on Thursday that they were notified by the Canadian government that he is being held by the North Korean government, according to CBC News.
The pastor, who immigrated from South Korea to Canada in the 1980s, is no stranger to traveling to North Korea, where Light Presbyterian Church supports a nursing home and orphanage, going to the country more than 100 times over the past nine years.
So far, no reason for his detention has been given, with church spokeswoman Lisa Pak telling CBC News that she doubts Lim engaged in proselytizing, which is illegal in the reclusive country.
"He knows the language, he knows the nature of the government, so we don't see that as a legitimate reason that he would be detained," Pak said, according to CNN. "We don't believe that's the way he would have behaved. He's very wise about that."
Lim, who traveled along with another church member from China to North Korea on January 30, typically enters the country to deliver supplies and then exits quickly to avoid any potential issues with authorities.
Initially, Lim's family assumed that the pastor might have been held as a result of North Korea's recent Ebola travel ban, but when they waited for the 21-day incubation period to end, they became increasingly concerned and contacted Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish Embassy in North Korea for assistance, CNN reported.
North Korea has been restricting its borders to foreigners since October in an effort to stop the spread of the disease, though it appears those efforts are easing.
For now, Lim's family is asking the public for prayer.
"The Lim family and the church community is asking fellow Canadians and the international community to continue praying for his release and safe return home," Pak said in a statement.
(H/T: CBC News)