The stars come out for a Moon dance

Australian Financial Review, February 12, 2000
By Jennifer Veale, Seoul

It's not every day that Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid and Dan Quayle share the same stage with Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the leader of the Unification Church known worldwide as the "Moonies". But on Thursday night President Wahid and former US vice-president Dan Quayle shared the podium at the Reverend Moon's 80th birthday and the 57th of his wife.

Most Church functions are attended by a motley assortment of pseudo-celebrities, many clearly paid for their attendance.

So President Wahid's presence raised eyebrows, as it is highly unusual for an incumbent leader to attend a "Moonie" celebration. The Indonesian President joined Reverend Moon's birthday banquet after attending an earlier one hosted by President Kim Dae-jung at the Blue House, where Mr Wahid backed Korea's bid to chair the 56th United Nations General Assembly.

President Wahid is said to be hoping to entice the church to invest in Indonesia, a sign of how desperate is Indonesia's need for foreign investment.

During his speech, President Wahid praised Reverend Moon for his support of the family. "I come here to mainly honour him for this thoughts on the family," the president said.

He told Reverend Moon and his audience that he was grappling with the role of Islam in the modern world.

Dan Quayle thanked Reverend Moon on behalf of US conservatives for founding the Washington Times newspaper.

The Unification Church may be best known as one of the world's most controversial cults but it is also a huge and multifaceted business empire called the Tongil Group.

Reverend Moon claims millions of followers - many of them recruited at mass wedding ceremonies which have been banned in a number of countries which took a dislike to his vigorous proselytising.

The North Korean-born Moon has also fallen foul of tax authorities in the US and is moving his base to South America.

The "Moonies" are expanding aggressively into North Korea, having just opened a car factory near the capital, Pyongyang.

The Church also believes it has a good chance of becoming the official religion, should North Korea open itself up to the outside world.

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