Hong Kong (CNN)A Canadian pastor, who went to North Korea on a humanitarian trip in late January, is being held in the reclusive Communist state, his family said early Thursday.
The family of Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim said they received notice from Canadian officials that Pyongyang has confirmed that the pastor is being held.
"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," a family spokeswoman said in a short emailed statement.
Lim, 60, went to North Korea on a humanitarian trip as he had done over a hundred times before, said Lisa Pak, a spokeswoman for his church, based in Mississauga, Ontario.
On January 30, Lim traveled to North Korea from China with a companion from the church who last spoke with him the following day.
Lim was scheduled to return February 4 from what was described as a "routine" trip to Rajin, in northeastern North Korea, where his church supports a nursery, orphanage and nursing home, according to the Light Korean Presbyterian Church.
In 1986, Lim immigrated to Canada from South Korea with his wife and son. He speaks fluent Korean and leads a 3,000-member church.
Pak, the church’s spokeswoman, said she doesn’t believe Lim would have engaged in any type of proselytizing, which is prohibited in North Korea.
"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," she said. "We don’t believe that’s the way he would have behaved. He’s very wise about that."
Previously, North Korea has detained Westerners on religious grounds.
Former detainee’s advice: Keep the faith
Kenneth Bae, who was detained for two years after North Korea accused him of trying to bring down the government through religious activities. Bae was released in November.
Another American, Jeffrey Fowle, was arrested after leaving a Bible at a club in North Korea and released after five months in detention.
Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a U.S. citizen sentenced to eight years of hard labor and believed to be a Christian activist, was released from North Korea in 2010 after a visit to Pyongyang by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
CNN’s KJ Kwon contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea, and Tina Burnside from Atlanta.