David Yonngi Cho Case, Post Facto

February 25, 2014
by Steven Lambert

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[Editor’s note: In an article posted on Charisma Magazine at 1:30 PM, 25 hours after its original posting reporting David Yonggi Cho’s being found guilty of embezzlement and tax-evasion charges, Charisma Magazine then posted the following article by a pastor claiming to have been present at the trial and being a longtime close friend and adviser to Cho. Bob Rodgers’ article reports details of the sentencing as well as the facts of the case that conflict with Charisma’s original article by Jennifer Leclaire, and places the blame for the embezzlement of church funds and tax-evasion scheme squarely on Cho’s eldest son and some treacherous church elders who essentially duped the elder Cho into signing some papers without comprehending their contents or import that were the paperwork for a $12-Million fraudulent stock scheme using church monies. Spirit Life Magazine has been unable at the time of this posting to independently verify any of Bob Rodgers’ version of the story, but will report them if and when we are able to do so. In the meantime, Rodgers’ version of the facts in the case, in our view, even if true, do not change much the thrust of the cautionary tale represented in the matter and the matters we wrote about in our article. Those issues remain unchanged. Moreover, Rodgers’ article only brings up another whole set of issues relative to other character, heart, spiritual, fathering, and leadership questions and issues on the part of Pastor Cho. “To whom much is given, much is required,” “Let not many of you become teachers (church leaders) for in such you incur a stricter judgment,” and are two admonitions from Scripture that come to mind, along with another that says that an overseer “must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?) [1 Tim. 3:4-5]. One is also reminded of the fathering failure of Eli, the High Priest, and how his sons misused their priestly power to rape and mistreat women and to engage in a form of embezzlement and extortion. It seems evident that the “iniquity (perversion) of the father” produced a harvest of evil crop that manifested in his corrupt adult sons. God punished them all, including Eli himself, with untimely death for their wickedness. When one has been vaunted and almost beatified as “the world’s greatest pastor,” based primarily on the fact that the church he leads has the most members of any church in the world, unfortunately, such claims to “greatness” and de facto apotheosis only subject (unfairly and unreasonably) the principal to greater scrutiny, higher standards of conduct and spirituality, and expectations from others. Regardless, having posted our original article concerning the matter, we felt obliged in all fairness to post Bob Rodgers’ article published by Charisma Magazine as well. However, over the years of scandal after scandal emerging out of the Pentecostal/Charismatic realm, most inveterate observers can almost predict in advance that whenever an exalted leader is involved in some scandal that becomes news, some close friend or sycophant of the principal will write some article refuting all the allegations and insist it was all a misunderstanding or someone’s vendetta or a kangaroo trial and miscarriage of justice, and their good-ole boy friend is really the reincarnation of St. Francis of Assisi. We’re all pretty much used to that by now, and so Mr. Rodgers’ claims that it’s all just a big mistake and it’s really just another wonderful day in the neighborhood, doesn’t hold much water with us at this point. Regardless of the details, where there’s smoke, there’s usually some sort of fire somewhere, which means there’s some sort of wrong doing here somewhere, wherever and whatever it might be. While it may often be true that, as the saying goes, “the devil’s in the details,” sometimes in matters of the Kingdom God’s adjudication and judgment is in a matter in which the details are muddled, unclear, or not as reported. We think this is one of those cases.]

Setting the Record Straight on David Yonggi Cho
By Dr. Bob Rodgers, Sr.

David Yonggi Cho, pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, has been a personal friend of our family for more than 40 years. He has stayed in our home, and my father and I have served on his church growth board for a combined 38 years. Presently, I serve as president of Church Growth International of the Americas.

Because of the slant of some of the media reports, it is important certain details of the situation be made known. Not only was I present in Seoul during much of the trial, but there was also information disclosed during closed-door meetings which has not yet been made public. I want to share some of this as follows.

First, the Seoul Central District Court sentenced Cho, 78, to a three-year prison term suspended for five years. He had been indicted for allegedly causing financial losses worth more than $12 million. He was also fined $5 million. He will not have to serve prison time, but he is on probation.

Second, Cho’s son, Cho Hee-Jun, 49, was indicted for the same charges. Because he was considered a flight risk, he was immediately taken into custody following a court order after being sentenced to three years in prison.

Cho has three sons. The second and third sons are very productive and work in church-related ministries. His eldest son has been the prodigal. He has been married four times and has been involved in sexual scandals with national personalities. In addition, he has served prison time for investment scams and embezzlement. His scandalized life has been an embarrassment to his family and the church.

Twelve years ago, this son purposely defrauded the church in excess of $12 million in a stock-related scheme. Cho testified that he trusted his elders and son and didn’t check and read the thousands of pages of paperwork, which was prepared for him to sign. Because Cho relied upon the direction of his choice elders and son, he signed the papers. He never received any monies from the transaction.

Third, the presiding judge said, “The court considered that even though Pastor Cho had the final say in the church, he never took the lead in any of the crimes, including tax evasion, committed on the suggestion of the accounting firm.”

The court also considered Cho’s life journey as a religious leader and his long-term contribution to social welfare as mitigating circumstances on his behalf. The court ruled that his son, Cho Hee-Jun, was the instigator of the crime related to the purchase of the shares of 1-Service stock.

Even though Cho established the world’s largest church, with more than 1 million members, he lives a simple life in a 1,000-square-foot church apartment. Neither does he own a car. Cho has raised and given personally to the church more than $170 million.

Dr. Bob Rodgers Sr. is pastor of Evangel World Prayer Center in Louisville, Ky.

Source: http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/42918-setting-the-record-straight-on-david-yonggi-cho

Read our original article: David Yonngi Cho Found Guilty of Embezzlement and Tax-Evasion


Dr. Steven Lambert was ordained in 1977 and holds several earned graduate/post-graduate degrees. Over more than four decades in ministry, he has served as a pastor, radio/TV host, adjunct-professor, Board Certified Doctoral Diplomate Christian Therapist/Counselor, and a speaker/commentator on a range of social, political, and theological issues, particularly as a recognized authority on the matter of ecclesiastical authoritarian abuse. He is the founder/Overseer of Ephesians Four Network (ephesiansfour.net) and its subsidiary, Ephesians Four Network of Deliverance Counselors (efndc.ephesiansfour.net). Dr. Lambert authored several books (catalog at realtruthpublications.com), many published articles, and is the founder/editor of Spirit Life Magazine (spiritlifemag.com). His bio, extensive blog, and scheduling information are available on his ministry website at: http://www.slm.org. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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