Canadian pastor being held in North Korea speaks at news conference

Updated 11:21 AM EDT, Fri July 31, 2015

Story highlights

Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim confesses to activities aimed at toppling the government of North Korea

Family spokesperson is extremely skeptical of the charges and the confession

Westerners held previously in North Korea have said that their confessions were given under pressure

(CNN) —  

A Canadian pastor detained in North Korea made his first public appearance at a news conference in Pyongyang on Thursday, nearly six months after he was arrested in the country while on a humanitarian visit, according to North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA.

Reading from a statement, Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim confessed to activities aimed at toppling the government of North Korea and to violating the country’s Ebola quarantine policy in February by “illegally” entering the capital, KCNA reported.

“I have so far malignantly defamed the dignity and social system of (North Korea),” Lim said, according to KCNA.

Lim traveled into North Korea from China on January 30 with plans to tend to aid projects established by his church in the northeastern city of Rajin, including an orphanage, a nursery and a nursing home.

A church leader who speaks on behalf of the family, Lisa Pak, described the trips as “routine” and said that Lim had visited the country over 100 times.

In a statement given first to CNN on Thursday, Pak said, “There are no comments regarding the charges and allegations made against Mr. Lim except that the humanitarian aid projects that Mr. Lim has both initiated and supported in the DPRK have been for the betterment of the people.”

“It is this tremendous love for the people of the DPRK that motivated Mr. Lim to travel to the nation over 100 times,” she said.

Coerced confessions

Westerners held previously in North Korea have said that their confessions were given under pressure from the state.

In April, U.S. citizen Sandra Suh was released from detention in the country and deported to the United States after admitting to “plot-breeding and propaganda against the DPRK,” according to KCNA.

Lim apologized in his statement for trying “to remove loyalty in the hearts of the North Korean people to their authorities,” according to The Associated Press, which was also present for the news conference. AP reported it was delivered in front of a packed room of Pyongyang-based journalists.