September 14, (THEWILL) – David Yong-Gi Cho, the South Korean pastor and founder of the country’s largest mega-church, the Yoido Full Gospel Church, died on Tuesday morning.
He was aged 85.
Cho was married to Sung-Hye Kim, with whom he had three sons, before she died in February this year.
His funeral is set for Saturday, according to the church.
Cho had been in a Seoul hospital since collapsing in June 2020 after suffering a brain haemorrhage.
He founded the Yoido Full Gospel Church in 1958, and the assembly grew to be among the world’s largest churches with more than 700,000 attendees per week.
“He conveyed the Gospel of hope to the Korean people who fell into despair after the Korean War,” the church said in a statement. “He was instrumental in growing the Korean church, particularly developing Yoido Full Gospel Church as the world’s largest church.”
Better known as David Yonggi Cho or Paul Yonggi Cho abroad, the late pastor started his church in Seoul with five worshippers in 1958.
In 1993, the church had more than 700,000 members, making it the world’s biggest Christian congregation according to Guinness World Records.
It has 400 pastors and evangelists in South Korea and 500 missionaries abroad.
A worldwide Christian figure, the pastor participated in religious rallies and movements in at least 71 countries.
Born in 1936, Cho lived through the Korean War, during which he served as an interpreter between his school principal and the US military commander, according to a statement the church sent out to announce his demise.
In his second year of high school, he was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis and told he would not live much longer.
During this time, he turned to Christianity, and got healed “miraculously.”
His recovery prompted him to enrol in the Full Gospel Theological Seminary, following which he established the Yoido Church that began with just five members gathered under a tent in Seoul.
That number continued skyrocketing as the church went international, expanding to include a giant mountainside retreat in South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province and a Christian university Cho founded in California.
The church also established an international arm, headed by Cho, to connect with pastors and church leaders from 25 other countries, according to its website.
Within South Korea, Cho became a hugely influential figure. He founded a Christian daily newspaper, established a humanitarian NGO, and wrote several boo