Canadian pastor freed from North Korean prison 'on his way home': family

The Latest: Trump warns NKorea of 'fire and fury'

South Korea-born Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim is pictured during his trial at a North Korean court in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on December 16, 2015.

In a trial held around the end of 2015 in Pyongyang, the country's highest court found Lim guilty of having conspired to overthrow the regime as a part of an alleged conspiracy by the governments of the USA and South Korea.

North Korea said Wednesday that it has released an imprisoned Canadian pastor for humanitarian reasons amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

At the time of his arrest, the representative of the presbyterian Church in korea in Light of Toronto was considered one of the most influential christian missionary in North Korea, a country that he had visited dozens of times to work in orphanages and hospitals.

Lim's family had stepped up calls for his release since the death of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier in June.

South Korea on Thursday welcomed North Korea's release of the pastor, urging the North to free the South Korean citizens still held in captivity. The North Koreans permitted that medicine to be sent to Lim, via the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the news and said, 'The Government of Canada was actively engaged on Mr Lim's case at all levels'.

North Korea is still holding three Americans.

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A family spokesperson says his health was deteriorating, and he lost an excessive amount of weight while in detention.

According to his family, Lim had been to North Korea more than 100 times. Warmbier had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 after being accused of stealing a propaganda poster.

Lim is expected to return to Canada later on Thursday and will be hospitalised on arrival at his wife's request, a source familiar with the matter said.

Turnbull told reporters in Canberra the only way to deal with North Korea was with "maximum economic pressure" and welcomed new sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.

Lim told CNN previous year that he dug holes eight hours a day, six days a week in a labor camp.

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary, served two years of detention in the North before being released in November 2014 when then-U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made a secret trip to Pyongyang to win his release and that of another USA detainee.

Mr. Cho said North Korea could be trying to "save face" in the global community by releasing Mr. Lim.

North Korea reportedly freed a Canadian pastor Wednesday after the man became ill while serving a life sentence. Lim eventually chose to devote more time and money to the needy in North Korea, making about 110 trips there since 1997.

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