Oct 6, 2017

Korean spiritual leader plans martial arts school near Kerikeri 

A company owned by a Korean spiritual leader plans a martial arts centre on the site of Marty's Cafe and Golf Driving Range, off SH10 north of Kerikeri. Photo/Peter de Graaf

Peter de Graaf
Northern Advocate
October 3, 2017

A company owned by a Korean spiritual leader has applied for consent to build a martial arts academy for gap-year students in rural Kerikeri.

Meditation Tour, which is owned by Dahn Yoga founder Ilchi Lee, bought Marty's Golf and Archery Range, on State Highway 10 north of Kerikeri, earlier this year. The company wants to build a martial arts hall on the property along with accommodation for 50 students, sportsfields, a tennis court, pool, archery range and an extension to the existing Marty's Cafe.

Mr Lee is also the founder of the Earth Citizen Organisation which aims to recruit 100 million members worldwide and establish a global training centre on Pungaere Rd, west of Kerikeri.

The martial arts academy dormitory will have separate wings for boys and girls, a dining room, lounge, study rooms and bathrooms. The site is at the end of an unsealed private road.

According to a Meditation Tours brochure, the academy will be called the Benjamin School for Character Education and will target South Korean gap-year students in need of a break from their high-pressure education system. The cafe will remain open to the public.

Neighbouring properties were notified about the company's resource consent application last month and have until October 24 to make submissions.

The next step will depend on those submissions. If neighbours are opposed a hearing could be called with an independent commissioner making the final decision about whether it should go ahead.

Meanwhile, Mr Lee's Earth Citizen Organisation has also opened an "Earth Citizen Healing Centre" in a former shop on Cobham Rd, next to Kerikeri's Procter Library.

The centre is open daily and offers classes in yoga, weight loss and qi-gong (a form of exercise involving gentle movement). It also sells the yellow, hammer-shaped "belly button healing wand" which Mr Lee's followers claim stimulates the navel for gut and brain health, energy, and stress and pain relief.

Meditation Tour manager ManGyu Choi did not respond to inquiries about the martial arts centre. Earlier, however, he told the Advocate the company brought 3000 visitors to Northland in 2016 and planned to more than double that this year. With its construction projects, jobs and visitor spending, the company would inject millions of dollars into the Bay of Islands economy, he said.

Ilchi Lee, real name Seung Heun Lee, made his fortune as the founder of Dahn Yoga - described as a blend of yoga, tai chi and martial arts exercises - and a variety of mind and body training techniques. He now focuses on his Earth Citizen Organisation and business interests such as Meditation Tour.

Mr Lee has bought five high-end homes in Kerikeri, a resort at Haruru Falls and a 25ha waterfront section on Whangaroa Harbour. One of his companies has also bought a 156ha property on Pungaere Rd, on the edge of Puketi Forest west of Kerikeri, where he plans to build a global training hub for the Earth Citizen Organisation.


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