BLOG: The vital role of consulates and embassies

By Assunta Ng

Ordinary folks think only of visas when they think of consul generals. Actually, consul generals play an important role in serving the local community. For instance, the recent haze in Beijing, which shut down airports and highway transportation, caused local people to turn to the U.S. Embassy for an accurate measure of pollution in the city.

Do you remember the Seattle Chinese Garden project, which progressed slowly until Chinese Consul General Gao Jinsheng stepped in and encouraged the local Chinese community to support the project? His stepping in instantly gave the project credibility and momentum. Gao even donated auction items for a benefit dinner and arranged for free labor from China to help build the garden.

Had the Japanese Consul General not supported the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Seattle Center with money and resources, the festival would not have been as big as it is today.

If the South Korea Consul General had not helped the Korean community fight for continuation of the Korean Studies program at the University of Washington, the program would be nothing today, due to funding cuts by the legislature. This year alone, the Center for Korean Studies received a $1 million grant from the Academy of Korean Studies. The consul’s support is key to the survival of many programs and community morale.

It’s unfortunate that India decided not to establish a consul general’s office in Bellevue, though it had plans to do so. That decision was bad for the Indian community here. With such an office, the local community can be supported through many cultural exchange programs. Our Indian community fought hard to get the office. But sadly, it didn’t come to fruition.

Birthday celebration

Disaster brings out crowds. On Dec. 8, 250 people celebrated the birthday of Japan’s Emperor Akihito. The emperor was born on Dec. 23, 1933. The reception was held at the residence of Consul General of Japan Kiyokazu Ota on Queen Anne. Ota thanked Washingtonians for their support of Japan during the earthquake and tsunami this year.

It was the biggest showing I had ever seen for the emperor’s birthday. I think the recent tsunami and earthquake played a role in this. At the event, it was announced that there will be a commemoration of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in March 2012. (end)

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