The 78-year-old pastor of the world’s largest Pentecostal church in South Korea has been found guilty of embezzling $12 million from his congregation and has been sent to prison for a period of three years.
The Yoido Full Gospel Church founder, Pastor David Yonggi Cho, reportedly told his congregation that he had learned a valuable lesson from his experience and he hoped God forgave him for his actions. He added that one of the things that he had learned was that we shouldn’t own any material possessions, only those that come from within.
Cho was found guilty last week of embezzlement by persuading officials of his church to buy shares owned by his son, Cho Hee-jun, who was also found guilty and sentenced to three years. Cho and his son had sold stocks that were only worth one fourth of the amount that his officials had paid.
Cho was also found guilty of tax evasion which could have landed him a more severe sentence, but the judge was lenient with the founding pastor on accord of his service to the members of the public and his congregation.
The founder of the church, which has grown to over 1 million members since its beginnings in 1958, was accredited with being the instigator of the embezzlement scheme which his son played along with. He must now repay those who he cheated to the tune of around $4.6 million.
The Yoido Full Gospel Church is affiliated with the Pentecostal Christian denomination Assemblies of God USA, which was founded at a meeting of several Pentecostal ministers in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1914.
Reportedly, Cho Ha Sang-ok, a former elder of the church, had pleaded with Cho to turn back to God and put a stop to his unscrupulous dealings. According to Ha, he had discussed these unethical dealings with pastor Cho on several occasions during a period of 14 years.
Ha went on to say that after repeated pleading with Cho to repent of his corruptive ways, which appeared to fall on deaf ears, he had no choice but to report the matter to the authorities.
However, Dr. Bob Rogers, senior Pastor of Evangel World Prayer Center, Louisville, Kentucky, who has served on the board of Cho’s church and refers to him as a personal friend, believes Cho was purposely defrauded by his son.