Korean-American church leader Youngil Cho dies

Presbyterian elder was revered and honored in U.S. and Korea

May 26, 2011

Headshot of Youngil Cho

Youngil Cho —PNS file photo

Presbyterian elder and longtime Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leader Youngil Cho, 77, died May 22 in Raleigh, N.C. A funeral service will be held May 28 at the Korean Presbyterian Church of DuRaleigh.

Born and raised in Seoul, Korea, Cho became a Christian under the influence of Presbyterian missionaries. He earned his B.A. in accounting from Korea University in 1955 and entered government service.

While traveling to the United States, a coup toppled the Korean government and Cho opted to stay in the U.S. He was eventually reunited with his family and continued his studies, receiving his MBA and Ph.D. degrees from New York University. He taught for 29 years at North Carolina Central University, with 22 of those years spent also as associate dean of undergraduate studies in the School of Business.

Cho was constantly active in all levels of the PC(USA). He helped organize the DuRaleigh Church in 1974, the first Korea Presbyterian congregation in North Carolina. He was ordained a PC(USA) elder in 1979.

Cho was active at all levels of the PC(USA) and in a variety of capacities. He moderated his presbytery and served on the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic. He served two terms on the General Assembly Council, including a sting as chair in 1996-1997.

During that time he also led a successful fundraising drive to construct the chapel at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville. Later he served on the steering committee of the Mission Initiative: Joining Hearts & Hands Campaign and on the board of trustees of San Francisco Theological Seminary, where he was instrumental in developing the seminary’s ties to theological education in Korea.

Perhaps his greatest church interest was Presbyterian Men, which he served as president for many years. Beginning in 1980, Cho returned to Korea every year, creating and facilitating an exchange program for Korean and American Presbyterian men, youth and lay leaders.

In 2000, Cho became general secretary of the National Laymen’s Association of the Presbyterian Church in Korea (PCK) and in 2007 the PCK bestowed on him the Laymen’s Great Award. In the church’s 100+ year history, only three people have been so honored and Cho is the first American citizen to receive the honor.

Youngil Cho was preceded in death by his wife, Insook Cho, and his parents Tu Om Cho and  Soonye Lee Cho. He is survived by his children ― sons Thomas Cho of South Korea and Edward Cho and his wife Badriah, of Charlotte, N.C.;  daughters Debra Ko and her husband Doyoon of Virginia Beach, Va., Victoria Bishop and her husband Robert, and Anna Munro and her husband Michael, all of Clearwater, Fla. ― and eleven grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Che Kwang Cho, and his wife Hee Jeung.

  1. what a great man indeed

    by imohudoh

    December 15, 2011

  2. I am shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Youngil Cho. As one of his former students at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, NC, I enjoyed a good relationship with him. Dr. Cho was a very good instructor who was also fair with his students. We loved him in the Division of Business. I graduated in 1977 and live in Illinois. I had not been in touch with him since I left school, and recently had begun to inquire of his whereabouts. Sadly, I learned of his passing from this article. I am happy however to learn that he believed in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, therefore I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

    by Rev. Donald R. Cook, Sr

    October 24, 2011