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    Brussels ‘cheese missionary’ in South-Korea dies

    © Facebook Embassy of Belgium in Seoul
    © Facebook Embassy of Belgium in Seoul

    Didier t’ Serstevens, a Brussels missionary who founded the first cheese factory in South-Korea in the sixties, has died. 1000 South Koreans attended his funeral.

    Initially, t’ Serstevens went to South Korea as a missionary just after he graduated in 1958. He met several impoverished farmers that he tried to help by giving them goat milk.

    When he turned out to have too much milk, he came up with the idea to make cheese of it. “First he made cheese for the American soldiers, who spread the rumour in luxury hotels in the capital city. Imsil Cheese -named after the village where t’ Serstevens found his first goats- became a luxury brand and a cheese factory. Pizza chefs fought for his cheese,” Jean Jacques t’ Serstevens, the missionary’s nephew, said to Het Nieuwsblad.

    Today, Ismil Cheese is sold to 70 brands and the company has a turnover of 18 million euros.  “However, my uncle kept his focus on the poorest people,” Jean Jacques said. “When the factory kept growing, he passed on the management and did not even want shares in the factory,” he added.

    Didier t’ Serstevens stayed in South Korea until he died at the age of 87.

    Three years ago, the country granted him South Korean citizenship because of the economic importance of his initiative.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times