Niue offered key to holy city

A religious group based in Korea wants to build a $200 million walled holy city on Niue Island.

New Zealand Herald/July 20, 2002
By John Andrews

In return, the sect says, it is prepared to provide an airline service linking the isolated and hard-up nation of 1500 people with New Zealand, Fiji and beyond.

The holy city scheme is not the first grandiose plan to surface on Niue. A scheme to build a cyber city complex went belly up a couple of years when the promoter was discovered to be a fraudster.

The latest scheme involves an exclusive, guarded retreat, complete with temples and accommodation blocks for 600 people.

The promoters are headed by a cape-wearing Korean religious figure, "Sir" David John Kang M. Lee, said to be grand master of the world Christian Ambassador Mission Holy People University in Korea.

They want to use 121ha of Government lease farm land at Vaiea.

Thoughts of economic salvation emerged when Deputy Premier Sani Lakatani, two fellow politicians and a Government adviser accepted an expenses-paid trip to Baltimore in the United States to hear the Korean proposals for the walled city.

Through Chris Hong, the Korean-American founder of a dismantled medical school on Niue, they met Mr Lee, who claims his title "Sir" was awarded by an "imperial household of the Russian Federation".

Mr. Hong told the Weekend Herald the project's promoters want to post guards around the holy city perimeter to keep out intruders and to bar Niue police from entering the compound to arrest people.

Mr. Hong, who is seeking to re-establish his medical school and associated university as part of the deal, said it was he who had found Mr Lee and his prospective project backers.

At the Baltimore meeting, Mr Lakatani's delegation members told Mr Lee, clad in cape and sash, that they regarded a jet airline service as Niue's top priority.

Niue, which faces a budget deficit of about $2 million, has been hurting since the demise of its direct air link to New Zealand a year ago.

A draft heads of agreement proposes that the Koreans establish an airline followed by the medical school, buy the Niue Hotel and the island's attractive Matavai Resort and then construct their holy city.

Back in Niue this week, Mr Lakatani outlined the project to fellow Cabinet ministers.

"We're going to work on it to see if they are reputable people," he told the Weekend Herald. "We will check them out."

Hunuki Hunukitama, a Niue MP in the delegation, said the Government wanted to check if the religious group had surfaced elsewhere in the Pacific.

"We want to run checks through Interpol, Scotland Yard, the FBI and CIA and see where they are coming from," he said.

The New Zealand High Commissioner to Niue, John Bryan, said of the Korean proposal: "The New Zealand Government is evaluating it along with the Niueans. We are in discussions with the Niue Government."

Mr. Hong told the Weekend Herald he believed Mr Lee's group was different from the Korean-based Moonies and was neither a sect nor a cult.

"It is a religious organisation but it is not a church," he said. "It is an international organisation promoting a religious concept with the aim of one god, one faith, one world, one mankind."

Mr. Hong said Niue's appeal lay in its remoteness.

"No one can attack it without a major military operation. Security is there.

"We will have a wall around it [the holy city]. Under the treaty we mention boundaries. It could be a concrete boundary. It could be a fence. We want to control access."

One well-placed Niue source said some Moonie followers had wanted to set up something like the so-called holy city on Niue for a similar number of people about two years ago but no one had taken it seriously.

"But this is madness," said the source. "It makes us look like a bunch of idiots. You will probably find the upper echelon in Niue would be horrified that we are going down this track and hope it is chucked out the window."

Mr Lakatani said he and his delegation, plus Niue Premier Young Vivian, had been invited to Seoul in September or October to sign an agreement with the holy city promoters.

"We want to sign the treaty first to get the airline up and running," said Mr Lakatani. "As soon as they sign the treaty, they can fly. They say they can buy one [aircraft]."

Asked what the airline might be called, Mr Lakatani said: "Savage Airlines, although it didn't go down well with their belief in God. Captain Cook named Niue as the Savage Island. I favour Savage Airlines."

Mr. Hong said the airline would be delivered to Niue within 180 days of the agreement being signed.

He said Mr Lee's idea was for one or two representatives from 150 countries as well as all 50 states of the United States to live in the holy city for as long as they wished.

The Koreans would have to import prefabricated material, said Mr. Hong. They were prepared to import cranes to unload containers, bring in food supplies and generate their own power if required.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.