Ministers ban Korean spiritual leader from buying Northland properties

Credit: Original article can be found here

Government Ministers have banned a Korean spiritual leader from buying many Northland properties for a retreat, after he sought retrospective consent for the deals already completed.

Eugenie Sage, Minister for Land Information, and David Parker, Associate Minister of Finance rejected retrospective application by Seung Heun Lee, Double Pine Investments and Meditation Tour.

The Overseas Investment Office has just released its March decisions where the rejections are explained.

Lee and two companies he owns bought several parcels of land near Kerikeri and Paihia between 2014 and 2016 and sought retrospective OIO consent for those deals, the office said.

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The land is classified as sensitive so foreigners need state consent to buy it.

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That cited land at 0.5ha 88 Reinga Rd in Kerikeri, 24ha at Whangaroa Rd, Totara North near Kaeo, 0.6ha 8-10 Riverstone Lane in Kerikeri, 4.7ha at 85 Access Rd in Kerikeri, 6.6ha at 34 Macadamia Lane in Kerikeri, 156ha at 1112 Pungaere Rd in Kerikeri and 1.7ha at Old Wharf Rd, Paihia.

Lee is the founder and proponent of Brain Education, formerly known as Dahn Hak Yoga.

Cabins under construction in Kerikeri for the retreat. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Cabins under construction in Kerikeri for the retreat. Photo / Peter de Graaf

“Brain Education promotes a mixture of exercise and meditation in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. The land in question is being used for meditation tourism,” the office said.

For consent to be granted, the two ministers needed to be satisfied that the Lee met both the investor test and the benefit test that requires the investment to result in substantial and identifiable benefit to New Zealand.

The investor test required Lee to have business experience and acumen relevant to his New Zealand investment, to have demonstrated financial commitment and to be of good character.

“Clark and Sage were not satisfied that the investor test had been met and declined the application on that basis,” the office said.

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In 2018, the Herald reported that Lee, known as Ilchi Lee to his followers, was already building his global youth training centre for his Earth Citizens Organisation on the outskirts of Kerikeri.

Lee is a businessman, author, and inventor of a ”belly button healing wand” which he claims boosts brain and gut health.

If completed as planned, his Earth Village was to include cabin and dormitory accommodation, a restaurant, training hall, conference centre and physical training areas on a 156ha Pungaere Rd property near Puketi Forest. The land was a mix of farmland, pine and native forest.

Investment in the Earth Village alone was expected to reach $35m by the time it was finished, it was reported in 2018.

Lee already had retreats in the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea but he wanted to build a place where people could learn sustainable living skills related to housing, energy, recycling and the natural environment, it was reported two years ago.