When Jeongkwan (Brian) Lee of the i-SENS planning division introduced me to Cheol Jean, Brian called him "the Korean David Mendosa." Brian was being too generous to me.
Both of us have written about diabetes for years and have organized diabetes support groups. But Cheol Jean, whose business cards reads as Charlie Jean to make it easier for Westerners, has written four books about diabetes -- twice as many as I have -- and founded and leads a much larger diabetes support group.
Charlie Jean and I Meet
Brian and I arrived in Busan, Korea, on Sunday evening on the bullet train from Seoul. We are here to participate in the Eighth International Congress of the International Diabetes Federation's Western Pacific Region at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (BEXCO).
I will be covering the IDF meeting for HealthCentral from Monday through Wednesday. About 3,000 people are here for the meeting in Busan, mainly from Korea, Japan, Canada, and Australia.
I am old enough to have remembered this now vibrant city from the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter. In August and September 1950 North Korean forces drove back the UN Command, which included thousands of American troops, and South Korean forces -- together with millions of refugees -- to the extreme southeast corner of the country around the port of Pusan.
How this country has changed in 60 years! Pusan, with its new name Busan, teams with new skyscraper hotels in the Haeundae beach district around BEXCO. I am staying on the 31st floor of the Hanwha Resort hotel from where I can look up to buildings at least twice as high. In facilities and size the convention hall rivals those in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Boston, Orlando, and Houston, where I have reported on other diabetes conventions for HealthCentral during the past five years.
Over tea in the BEXCO Starbucks, Brian brought Charlie Jean and me together for the first time. Charlie is a modest man. His business card identifies him -- in small print -- as the CEO of Argos Publishers Inc., a book publishing company in Seoul.
But Charlie has had type 1 diabetes for more than 30 years. As a writer as well as a publisher, he has also written four books about diabetes that are currently in print. One of them will soon appear in an English translation.
Brian from i-SENS was our interpreter. And when he told me that Charlie also founded and leads a diabetes support group, I realized why he had compared us. A few years ago I started a small support group of people committed to controlling their diabetes.
Charlie did likewise. But with some major differences.
Unlike my group, which includes only a few people in Boulder, where I live, Charlie's group includes more than 3,000 members in Korea and has been active for the past four years. While they do meet in person, particularly at an annual camp dedicated to improving their self-management, they communicate mostly on the Web.