Legendary Founder of South Korea’s Biggest Church, Cho Yong-gi, Dies
The Rev. Cho Yong-gi, whose founding of South Korea’s biggest church was a symbol of the postwar growth of Christianity in the country.
Mr. Cho, an emeritus pastor at Seoul’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, died at a Seoul hospital where he had been treated since he collapsed due to a cerebral hemorrhage in July 2020, the church said.
He conveyed the gospel of hope to the Korean people who fell into despair after the Korean War, said the author of statement on behalf of the church. He was instrumental in growing the Korean church, particularly developing Yoido Full Gospel Church as the world’s largest church, the author added.
Better known as Mr. David Yonggi Cho or Mr. Paul Yonggi Cho abroad, the late pastor started his church in Seoul with five worshippers in 1958, when South Korea was still struggling to rebuild itself from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War. Under his leadership, the church achieved explosive growth and become a symbol of the rapid growth of Christianity in what was then a deeply Confucian country.
The transformation of South Korea into a society with a Christian majority helped the country's economy become one of the strongest and most modern in the world. The appreciation of rights of the human person, including personal liberties, equality of opportunities, and dignity of human life, that are the foundation of the free market system catapulted Seoul to the circle of the most important world capitals.
The transformation of South Korea into a society with a Christian majority helped
the country's economy become one of the strongest and most modern in the world.
As former President Ronald Reagan once observed, the role of Christian missionaries and leaders, especially Mr. Cho in this process, was unprecedented.
In 1993, the church had more than 700,000 members, making it the world’s biggest church congregation according to Guinness World Records, the church said. Church officials said its membership has since declined to about 600,000 and that they cannot confirm whether their church remains the world’s largest.
It is still the largest Protestant church in South Korea. Church officials said it has 400 pastors and evangelists in South Korea and 500 missionaries abroad.