▲ David Castro, left, and Boris de Mesones at Boris Brewery. Photo by Yang Ho Geun
Editor’s note: The following article is part of an ongoing series titled Global Jeju, highlighting the international community which makes its home on the island.
Spaniard Jose Diaz, 67, is a local celebrity in Jeju, thanks to his sporting and promotion activities. He still exudes the optimism and energy most people think of when they think of the Spanish and was once a boxing coach and holds a 7th degree Taekwondo black belt.
Diaz first realized the potential for sport to positively influence young people during his tenure as a kickboxing coach in the Netherlands as part of a rehabilitation program he ran for young offenders. Last June, he participated in the opening ceremony of the 10th Jeju International Taekwondo Championship which was held at Ramada Hotel in Jeju City.
Diaz is also the president of international relations for the Jeju Taekwondo Association of Sport for all. Many practitioners of the self defense art on Jeju refer to Diaz as the “Publicity Ambassador of Taekwondo.”
According to the Jeju Immigration Office, there are only two Spaniards on Jeju Island; the other being Boris de Mesones, from Madrid. The pair have integrated well with the local community and work hard to promote Jeju.
They serve as unofficial ambassadors, recommending the island as a business and tourist destination and Diaz works with Jeju companies looking for business openings overseas. Diaz is currently promoting Jeju to Arab countries, while using his connections to help Jeju companies explore opportunities in Arabic-speaking nations.
Diaz also acts as a publicist for Jeju, writing articles about the island and Korea during his time as a reporter for a Spanish newspaper. He continues to write stories about Jeju for a public relations magazine distributed to all airports in Korea.
In 1991 he married a Korean woman who was visiting Spain while doing missionary work. Due to strict immigration laws, Diaz was at first unable to obtain permission to immigrate to Korea. While waiting for a change in government regulations, the couple lived in Spain for four years before relocating to the Netherlands.
Since their move to the island in 2005, Diaz and his family have become well-known among foreigners and Jeju citizens alike. Though the road to citizenship has been tumultuous, Diaz holds no grudges saying, “I hope to live in Jeju Island forever with my family.”
Diaz and his wife have a shared affinity for islands. He was born in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa. His wife was born on Ganghwa Island, Korea.
As part of his effort to establish a diplomatic relationship with the Canary Islands, Diaz has met with Kim Tae Hwan, the former Jeju governor, and suggested the two islands move toward increasing ties.
Many Korean people live in the Canary Islands, said Diaz, adding that he wanted to “make Jeju a sister island to the Canary Islands.”
Diaz’s compatriot Boris de Mesones hails from Madrid and has the same Spanish optimism as Diaz. He sells his homemade beer ‘J-Boris,’ in his microbrewery called Boris Brewery. “Brewing beer is the best job in the world,” de Mesones said. “Creating something is very exciting.”
He opened his second brewery on the island in November 2009 but had to wait until the end of July to acquire the license from the government to sell his beer.
“Three weeks ago I got the license,” he said. “We’re not doing any publicity until we have two more [types of] beer. We do it slowly. If I have the best beer, I sell it,” de Mesones added.
When de Mesones was studying to be a brew master at a German university, he met his future Korean wife. After their marriage in 2004, the newlyweds moved to Jeju, his wife’s homeland.
“When I first visited Jeju, the image [I had] of Jeju was green,” he said of his first impressions upon arriving on the island.
Together with his wife’s uncle they opened a microbrewery called Modern Time in Jeju City in 2006. He worked as the head brew master and brewed only Jeju beer using Jeju water and Jeju barley grown in Iho-dong in Jeju City.
The brewery has since grown and currently makes seven kinds of homemade beer.
“[My] first goal is don’t go bankrupt,” de Mesones laughed as he outlined his vision to sell at least six kinds of his unique beer in Boris Brewery. “My dream is [to] make Jeju beer ... a world [recognized] beer.”
Jeju residents are currently becoming more familiar with Spain due to the influence of the ancient Spanish pilgrimage course El Camino de Santiago on the creation of the Jeju Olle trails. The trails here are popular because tourists can enjoy Jeju’s natural beauty by walking, rather than zooming by in a rented car or tour bus. The ‘way’ of Jeju became a ‘way’ to promote Korea to the world.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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