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Founder of world’s largest megachurch, David Cho Yong-gi, dies at 85

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The founder of South Korea’s largest churches which is also the world’s biggest megachurches, David Cho Yong-gi, has died at the age of 85.

According to a news release by the church, Yoido Full Gospel Church, Yong-gi died on Tuesday morning in Seoul, following a long battle with brain hemorrhage he suffered in June, 2020.

Yong-gi founded the Yoido Full Gospel Church in 1958, which grew to be among the world’s largest churches with more than 480,000 attendees per week, according to Leadership Network, an international organization of church leaders.

The church has more than 500 branches across South Korea, Europe, Americas and Asia, and has sent thousands of missionaries to different countries over the years, according to the church’s news release.

The late cleric himself had participated in religious rallies and movements in 71 countries, the release noted.

Born in 1936, Yong-gi lived through the Korean War, during which he served as an interpreter between his school principal and the US military commander.

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, a decision he would later credit with his “miraculous” recovery, according to the church.

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His recovery prompted him to enroll in the Full Gospel Theological Seminary, and he established the Yoido church after graduating.

The church began as just five members gathered under a tent in Seoul, according to the church’s website.

Yoido became perhaps Korea’s best-known representative, boasting more than 700,000 members by 1993, with the numbers skyrocketing as the church went international, expanding to include a giant mountainside retreat in South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province and a Christian university Yong-gi founded in California.

Within South Korea, Cho became a hugely influential figure; he founded a Christian daily newspaper, established a humanitarian NGO, and wrote several books.

But he was also frequently the subject of controversy and scandal. In 2014, he was found guilty of embezzling $14 million in church donations to buy stocks owned by his son, at four times their market value.

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