Seoul, South Korea (AP) — Pastor Cho Young-gi, who once stood as a symbol of Christianity’s post-war growth in the country, died before the creation of South Korea’s largest church was undermined by corruption and scandals. Tuesday. He was 85 years old.
Cho, an honorary minister of the Yoido Complete Evangelical Church in Seoul, died in a statement at the Seoul Hospital, which had been treated since he collapsed in July 2020 due to a cerebral hemorrhage.
“He shared the gospel of hope with Koreans who were desperate after the Korean War,” a church statement said. “He was instrumental in the growth of the Korean church, especially the Yeouidful Gospel Church, as the largest church in the world.”
Cho started his church in Seoul in 1958 with five worshipers when South Korea was still struggling to rebuild itself from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War. Under his leadership, the church grew explosively and became a symbol of the rapid growth of Christianity, a country of deep Confucianism at the time.
According to a church statement, in 1993 the church had more than 700,000 members, making it the largest congregation in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. Church officials said the number of members of the church has since dropped to about 600,000 and it is not possible to confirm whether their church is still the largest in the world.
It is still the largest Protestant church in Korea. Church officials said their church had 400 ministers in South Korea and 500 missionaries abroad.
Despite his achievements, Cho and his family have been involved in many scandals in recent years.
In 2017, he was convicted of his back office and financial loss to the church, but was sentenced to imprisonment and avoided prison. In 2013, a female politician filed a father’s proceeding against one of her sons. His family has also faced criticism that they control important posts in the church and other church-related organizations.
Cho survived by his three sons. According to a statement from the church, his funeral is scheduled for Saturday, and the church will welcome mourners from Wednesday.