Members of Minnesota’s First Korean Church have filed a lawsuit against its pastor accusing him of living illegally inside the church in northeast Minneapolis with his wife and refusing to leave despite voting more of a dozen members of the little congregation to fire him.
Instead, senior members of the Korean MN Christ Grace Church say Wanpyo Hong will not resign, still lives in the church, and may have carried out other illegal activities, such as unauthorized applications for loans from the protection of paychecks and unapproved church expenses. Bank accounts. The members say that when they raised their concerns, Hong physically assaulted them.
Members of the church’s board of trustees voted to fire Hong in November 2021. In response, Hong “led an aggressive campaign to illegally terminate the membership and officerships of all who opposed him,” according to the lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court.
In response, Hong filed a series of other lawsuits, including harassment restraining orders against three members now banned from attending services, and a lawsuit against six members to bar them from worship.
Chris Boline and Stephanie Huisman of Minneapolis law firm Felhaber Larson are representing 13 church members in the lawsuit. They declined to comment. Hong is represented by his son, Sung Woo Hong, a recent law school graduate who began working at Trott Law in St. Paul around the time the litigation began.
Sung Woo Hong did not respond to requests for comment.
According to the lawsuit:
The church, located at 3665 Tyler Street NE, has a congregation of approximately 20 members and the oldest members first joined the church in the early 1980s.
The church searched for a new pastor in 2018 and connected with Hong, who was living in South Korea at the time. Members voted to hire him in January 2019.
Hong and his wife, Youngran Kim, had no place to live when they arrived in Minnesota, and members said they could not live at the church. But Hong pleaded to allow them to reside there for 60 days until they find accommodation.
Hong terminated a productive lease on the church property with the male and female missionaries to later convert it into his residence.
The Hongs still live there and the members accuse them of trespassing.
Accusations of other financial wrongdoing include unauthorized spending on the church’s bank account for which Hong refused to provide receipts, and an unauthorized request for Falcon National Bank PPP loans on behalf of the church. .
The church received nearly $9,000 in PPP. After which his wife bought refrigerators and vacuum cleaners which she told a member she had sent as gifts to relatives in South Korea. When this was revealed to the members, Hong was angry for “not keeping it a secret.”
Members also told Hong that her son should not be involved in church finances.
In October 2021, Hong met with Treasurer Yong Woo Jang, who wanted to discuss the proper use of the church’s debit card and checking account. But Hong “got angry… yelled at him, grabbed him and shook him. During the altercation, Hong tore Jang’s clothes and bruised his neck.”
That same day, another senior member, Young Ae Kim, wanted to settle financial irregularities with unapproved expenses, and Hong “grabbed her and pushed her against a wall in the church so she couldn’t. away from him, and he shook her and yelled at her so close to her face that his nose was almost touching hers… Kim yelled at Hong to get away from her and he didn’t done only after others intervened.”
Hong has since appointed his son treasurer. He is also accused of removing the two authorized signatories from the church’s bank account to make it the only signatory.
The members seek at least $50,000 in damages and recover all misappropriated and improperly received funds and property from the Hongs. The lawsuit seeks an injunction that prohibits the Hongs from interfering with church property and transferring title.
They want the Hongs removed from unlawful occupation of church property and hold the pastor accountable for breaching his fiduciary duties. They are seeking to ratify his dismissal, reverse his unlawful dismissal of members, and “ensure that church members can pray safely in church.”
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