By EDITORIAL DEPT. (NEWS@GOSPELHERALD.COM) Feb 24, 2014 08:57
David Yonggi Cho, founder of world's largest Pentecostal congregation, was found guilty by South Korean court for committing breach of trust and corruption of 13 billion won (US $12 million), according to Yonhap News Agency.
Yoido Full Gospel Church senior pastor received a suspended sentence of three-year prison term with a five year probation and ordered to pay a penalty of 5 billion won (US $4.7 million) by Seoul Central Distrcit Court on Feb. 20, 2014.
The court also sentenced Cho's elder son Hee-jun, secretary general of Yeongsan Christian Cultural Center and former chairman of Next Media, to a three-year prison term without suspension. He was formally arrested before the court ruling, the Yonhap News reported.
In 2002, while serving as chairman of a church-affiliated newspaper Kookmin Ilbo, Hee-jun sold the church 250,000 shares of stock in I-Service at 86,984 won (US$80.06) per share, which was much more expensive than the market price of 24,032 (US$22.12) per share, the hankyoreh reported.
Prosecutors identified David Cho as an accomplice to the crime of breach of trust, claiming that Cho used the money to help his son recover losses made in stock investements.
According to hankyoreh, Cho had directed the transaction, which the church has "absolutely no need for" and resulted in a loss, to be dealt with as quietly as possible despite his full knowledge of the potential "uproar" from the elders and congregation if they find out.
The church's loss of 131 billion won resulted in 29 church elder's filing the lawsuit in 2011, accusing him of embezzling US $20 million. In addition, prosecutors acquired evidence of tax evasion during the investigation, where Cho was suspected of evading 3.5 billion won (US $3.2 million).
While Cho has denied the allegation, he has also been criticized for privatizing church assets.
Although the judge believes that Cho should be severely punished for committing breach of trust, especially for a person of his status in society, he gave a light sentence on Cho's tax evasion in consideration of Cho's long-term contributions to the society, the Yonghap News reported.
The court sentenced Hee-jun to three years in prison for being the main culprit, who tried to evade responsibility - placing his personal financial loss on the church and the blame on others.
Cho, 78, founded Yoido Full Gospel Church in 1958 and it now claims more than 450,000 followers. His proteges have built their own "disciple churches" across the country, creating a congregation of around 800,000, with Cho as the leader.
David Yonggi Cho Responds to Guilty Verdict: 'Hardest Day of 50 Years of Ministry Service'
Pastor David Yonggi Cho, founder of the world's largest Pentecostal congregation, gave his reflection during the first Sunday Service after a South Korean court found him guilty of breach of trust, corruption and tax evasion, and sentenced him to three years in prison with a five-year probation and 5 billion won (US$4.67 million) in fines.
The 78-year-old disgraced megachurch pastor said that it was the hardest day of his 50 years of ministry when he heard the verdict on Thursday.
"Through this suffering, I've learned a homework. An individual shouldn't possess anything," Cho told his congregation at Yoido Full Gospel Church on Feb. 23, 2014. "Besides health, status, fame, authority, money... these are all matters that are outside the body and unworthy of any pursuit."
According to reports, Cho was identified as an accomplice through committing breach of trust in 2002 by ordering the church to purchase his elder son Hee-jun's stocks at four times the market price. The transaction resulted in the church's loss of 13 billion won (US$12 million). Moreover, Cho was also found guilty of tax evasion of 3.5 billion won (US$3.3 million).
In the same ruling, Cho's elder son Hee-jun, the former CEO of the church-affiliated local daily Kookmin Ilbo, was sentenced to three years in prison for colluding with his father in the embezzlement scheme.
Cho did not argue against the judgment, but, instead, examined himself from the perspective of faith.
"God forbid, if God calls me back today, I will still be able to go to the Kingdom of God," he said. Cho then asked that the congregation to pray for his successor pastor Young Hong Lee.
In his sermon, Lee apologized to the congregation for the negative impacts that Cho's case have brought upon them. He encouraged them to forget the past and press on towards the future, and to continue the spread of the Gospel to those who have yet to receive the great love of Christ.
Senior pastor Lee said that Yoido Full Gospel Church was purchased with a heavy price - the blood shed by Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore no power of darkness can divide the church. Lee encouraged the congregation to become one body in the Holy Spirit and to be more diligent in the Lord's Holy work.