Dong Chang Jeong: A Diplomat-Athlete who Goes the Distance

Life Isn’t a Sprint, It’s a Marathon.

Whether participating in a race or planning one, this honorary consul general, athlete, founder and sponsor of the annual Eco-Healing Seychelles Marathon, knows just what it takes to “run” a marathon—in every sense of the word.

A Passion for Fitness

Mr. Dong Chang Jeong, Honorary Consul General of Seychelles in Seoul, South Korea (formerly Honorary Consul until his promotion in 2010), is a man with a mission as well as a passion for health and fitness. Not only is he a marathon runner himself; he also oversees the popular annual Eco-Healing Seychelles Marathon, making it possible for hundreds of other runners from around the world to indulge the passion that he himself loves.

This experienced distance runner’s history provides ample evidence that he is no novice to the sport. During the 10-plus years he has pursued his hobby, Mr. Jeong has participated in over 70 marathons in 35 countries. He has run the world-famous Boston and New York marathons, as well as races in cities such as Los Angeles, Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing, London and Paris, an impressive resume indeed.

A Bit of Background

Born in Seosan, Chungcheong Province in Korea in 1961, Mr. Jeong majored in Portuguese at university—though he is fond of saying in jest (due to the time he devoted to his membership in the Alpine Society at the time) that he actually majored in mountain climbing.

After graduating from university, Mr. Jeong began his career in the tourism industry, joining Korea’s then number-one travel agency: Aju Travel. On the fast track for promotion, Mr. Jeong rose to the position of general manager in 10 short years. However, the stress of his fast-paced career—along with a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit and an every-other-day glass of whiskey—soon began to take their toll, causing his weight to spike to an unhealthy 95 kilograms. One day, recognising his need to recover his health, Mr. Jeong began a walking programme. Gradually, he increased his speed and eventually advanced to running. In 1997, he ran his first marathon.

Man of Many Talents

Mr. Jeong is a man who, today, wears many hats, including those of Regional Manager of the Seychelles Tourist Office in Korea and President and CEO of INOCEAN M&C (formerly the Eco1 Project). Yet, even during the early days of his career, he demonstrated this same creative versatility.

After having participated in the Boston and New York marathons with friends from his running club, Mr. Jeong felt inspired to create the “International Marathon Tour.” Ever the innovator, in 1997, he started his own company, operating travel programmes which provided the opportunity for Korean runners to attend world-famous marathons for the first time ever. At the time, running was not a common sport in Korea, a fact which contributed to the general scepticism about the likelihood that Koreans would be interested in travelling to other countries to run. Yet, Mr. Jeong felt confident that the runners’ market in Korea would expand. His instincts proved correct, and today his business transports more than 3,000 runners per year to various overseas marathon venues.
At about the same time, Mr. Jeong embraced the role of sports agent and began inviting elite runners from overseas to international marathon events held in Korea. Kenyan and other African runners were among the athletes he invited to run the Seoul International Marathon in 2002.

An Act of Kindness Pays Off

An incident which occurred at the time illustrates just how seriously Mr. Jeong viewed his trust. Upon learning that the African athletes’ flight schedule would require them to stay in Seoul a few extra nights at their own expense despite the fact that they were unable to afford even the least expensive hotel accommodations, Mr. Jeong graciously opened his own home to the runners. Providing rooms, meals, and a tour of Seoul City, and training with the athletes each morning, Mr. Jeong impressed them with his kindness.

Upon returning home, the grateful Kenyan athletes passed Mr. Jeong’s card along to a high-level official of the Foreign Ministry, relating the story of their dilemma in Korea and the kindness he’d shown. Thus, when the Kenyan and Korean ambassadors learned of the search by the Republic of Seychelles for an honorary consul in South Korea, Korean ambassador H.E. Mr. Suk Jo Lee naturally recommended Mr. Jeong for the position.

Initial Doubts

That’s when a Kenyan high commissioner introduced Mr. Jeong to then-Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Seychelles Government, Mr. Patrick Pillay. (Mr. Pillay is now a member of the Seychelles High Commission in London.) The Kenyan High Commission then officially put Mr. Jeong’s name forward for the position of Honorary Consul of Seychelles. After receiving the letter inviting him to join the Honorary Consulate of Seychelles in Korea, Mr. Jeong was surprised, at first disbelieving the request. However, later, when the Kenyan Ambassador (Korean Ambassador based in Kenya) personally telephoned asking him to accept the offer, he realised that the invitation was indeed legitimate.

First Trip to Seychelles

In 2005, Mr. Jeong made his initial visit to Seychelles to interview for the honorary consul position. Though he had travelled around the world, visiting the most attractive destinations, he was deeply impressed by Seychelles’ natural beauty.
During his interview, he expressed his desire to be the bridge that would connect Seychelles and Korea, fostering cooperation between the two nations in economic, cultural, educational, and other areas. He also shared his wish to promote Seychelles tourism in the Korean market. At the time, Seychelles was one of the least known countries to Koreans.

Following his appointment as honorary consul in 2006, Mr. Jeong considered his primary duty to be “contributing” to Seychelles. After a thorough study of the area, he began developing a plan for sponsoring his Eco-Healing Marathon in the beautiful country of Seychelles.

Recognising that many Seychellois struggle with obesity, as he himself had, Mr. Jeong realised that running—and especially marathon running—could provide a valuable method for promoting a healthier lifestyle for the nation. He thus designed a fourfold objective which he aspired to fulfil by means of the Eco-Healing Marathon.

Were one to ask oneself, in light of the positive results his multi-faceted vision has yielded thus far, whether Mr. Dong Chang Jeong, Honorary Consul General of Seychelles, athlete, visionary and planner extraordinaire has achieved his four-fold purpose for instituting the annual Eco-Healing Seychelles Marathon, one’s honest response would have to be a resounding “Yes!”

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