Reena Advani, NPR
Services at Yoido Full Gospel Church attract up to 12,000 people into the main sanctuary in Seoul.
Services at Yoido Full Gospel Church attract up to 12,000 people into the main sanctuary in Seoul. Reena Advani, NPR
Crowds gather for a Sunday morning service at the church.
Crowds gather for a Sunday morning service at the church. John Walker
Huge video monitors form the backdrop to the choir and pulpit.
Huge video monitors form the backdrop to the choir and pulpit. John Walker
The Yoido Full Gospel Church has 800,000 members throughout South Korea and other countries. It claims to be the biggest church in the world.
On Sundays, there are services every two hours — each attended by about 12,000 — in the church's vast halls in downtown Seoul. The services are accompanied by full orchestra, gospel singers, tenors and more.
All the services are in Korean, but simultaneous interpretation is available in English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, Indonesian and Malay.
South Korea has strong Buddhist and Shamanist roots. For many centuries, it was known as the Hermit Kingdom because of its resistance to outside influences. But in more recent years, Christianity has taken hold and the number of Christians has grown exponentially.
Christianity gained a greater foothold in the country only after the Korean War. Pastor Cho Yong-gi co-founded the Yoido Full Gospel Church in 1958. He says church membership skyrocketed because of American missionaries who offered a way to escape the miseries of war through faith.