UAE Business Leader Gets Degree from Rev Moon

Following on from my last entry, the AFP reports:

The head of a major Middle Eastern development company flew to North Korea Wednesday, and a South Korean report said he may be looking at investment opportunities.

Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties based in the United Arab Emirates, used his own plane for the trip from South Korea, an education foundation official said.

…The official, from the Sun Moon Education Foundation run by the Unification Church, said Alabbar flew to Pyongyang after receiving an honorary doctorate in law from Sun Moon University in South Korea.

During his first trip to the communist state he was to visit a world peace centre and a hotel, which are run by South Korea’s Tongil business group founded by Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon.

This was not the first honorary degree for Alabbar; he also has one from his alma mater, Seattle University:

A graduate of the Albers School of Business and Economics, Alabbar has gone on to a career of great distinction. He is chairman of the Dubai-based Emaar Properties, which has developments in Dubai as well as joint ventures and projects in India, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Syria, Pakistan, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. In less than five years, Emaar has become one of the world’s most valuable companies.

…Under Alabbar’s leadership, Emaar invests significantly in education throughout the Middle East and North Africa region as well as India. He also has an influential role in the government of Dubai. “In business, philanthropy and civic life, Mohamed is a true leader,” says Fr. [Stephen] Sundborg. “It will be a great sight to watch him accept this honor from his alma mater.”

Moon’s business links with North Korea go back several years. A 1998 International Herald Tribune report noted that

The Unification Church is using an invitation for its song-and-dance troupe Little Angels to perform in the North as an opportunity to talk about investment, church officials said Friday. The group is to arrive in Pyongyang on Saturday, led by Pak Bo Hi, right-hand man of the Unification Church’s founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and a controversial figure here who risked imprisonment in Seoul by attending the funeral of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung in 1994.

The Unification Church, whose Tongil Group ranks about 35th in size among South Korean conglomerates, appears to have Seoul’s permission to discuss possible investments with North Korea. Tongil, which means “unification” in Korean, owns factories and a chain of small stores in the South.

In 2000, the Tribune reported a deal with Fiat to operate in the country:

The project culminates years of effort on the part of Mr. Moon, his church and Tongil to enter the largely untapped North Korean market. Mr. Moon, despite a previous record of anti-communism, met North Korea’s former leader, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang in 1991.

…But Mr. Moon appears to have gained a special niche in the North through frequent expression of a desire for reunification of the peninsula through peaceful means.

“We must find a love that will benefit both sides,” he said in Seoul last week, adding that it was “heaven’s desire that North Korea and South Korea can be united.” His Unification Church “is an organization you can deal with,” said Aidan Foster-Carter, a specialist on Korea at Leeds University in England, explaining why North Korean leaders were willing to deal with Mr. Moon’s organization.

“Lots of anti-communists have changed their minds.”

Moon’s involvements in North Korea are also explored in this 2005 essay by Rory O’Connor.

One Response

  1. […] UAE Business Leader Gets Degree from Rev Moon Mohamed Alabbar gets degree while exploring business links with North Korea […]

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