News / Asia

Woman at Center of Petraeus Scandal is S. Korea Honorary Consul

Jill Kelley leaves her home November 13, 2012 in Tampa, Fla.
Jill Kelley leaves her home November 13, 2012 in Tampa, Fla.
South Korea's foreign ministry has confirmed to VOA that Jill Kelley, who is at the center of a scandal that has led to the resignation of the CIA director, is still serving as one of the country's honorary consuls in Florida.

A ministry official, speaking on condition he not be further identified, says the process to appoint Kelley began in August and she was given a certificate of appointment the following month.

Jill Kelley:

-37 year old socialite
-Worked as unpaid social liaison for US Central Command
-Hosted lavish parties in Tampa, Florida for society, military VIPs
-Married to prominent cancer surgeon
-Parents immigrated to the United States from Lebanon
Kelley is alleged to have tipped off the FBI about threatening e-mails from a woman who has been sexually involved with David Petraeus, the four star Army general who resigned last week as director of the Central Intelligence Agency after acknowledging an adulterous relationship with Paula Broadwell, who authored his biography.  

Kelley, 37, is known for her high-level social ties to MacDill Air Force Base, the home of the U.S. Central Command, near Tampa, Florida.

The Foreign Policy.com web site, quotes an unnamed diplomatic official as saying Kelley helped obtain support for the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and arranged meetings between the South Korean ambassador and local business leaders in the Tampa area.

A Fox News Channel program - “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren - quotes a businessman as saying he met Kelley at the Republican National Convention in Tampa and was told  she was a close friend of Petraeus and had extensive business contacts in South Korea.

But TransGas Development President Adam Victor  told the broadcaster that Kelley appeared unexperienced in business, asking for a finder's fee of two percent for a coal gasification project (which would have totaled $80 million), far in excess of the standard rate.

An honorary consul is someone who is usually paid a modest amount by a foreign government to do part-time work in a region where an embassy does not have a consulate.

“They take care of notarizing documents for natives of the country that they represent, “ explains retired U.S. ambassador Ray Burghardt in Honolulu.

“Let's say, if somebody was the honorary consul of Sweden, which does not have a consulate here, if a Swedish person died here or a Swedish person ended up in legal problems like in jail here, the honorary consul could be helpful to that person,” he said.

Burghardt -- who also served a deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul and is director of East-West Seminars at the East-West Center in Hawaii -  says honorary consuls usually have close ties to the country they are representing.

“A lot of the honorary consuls are people who originally came from the countries or perhaps their parents came from the country. So they have some connection. In other cases maybe they used to do business representing companies from that country. Usually there's some link like that,” said Burghardt.

But the former ambassador adds that, in some cases, honorary consuls might be selected because the person merely has social standing and important connections in their local community.

That appears to be the case with Kelley, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, with no known past ties to South Korea.

On Sunday Kelley is reported to have called police to complain about trespassers and told the dispatcher she was an honorary consul general and thus has inviolable rights.

The U.S. State Department says honorary consuls do not enjoy personal inviolability and they have diplomatic immunity only for “official acts.”
 
South Korea's nearest official consulate to Florida is in Atlanta, in the neighboring state of Georgia. There is a physical honorary consulate located in Miami where prominent corporate attorney Burton Landy has held South Korea's honorary consul general in Florida since 1988.   

The scandal that cost the CIA director his job  has also ensnared Marine Corps General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. His nomination to head the U.S. European Command is on hold while investigators look at numerous e-mails he exchanged with Kelley, which are described as by the Pentagon as “inappropriate communications.”  

In Seoul, foreign ministry officials met Wednesday to discuss Kelley's position.

When asked by VOA whether her appointment might be revoked, a relevant official flustered by the deluge of sudden media inquiries regarding Kelley, openly questioned what would be diplomatic considering she has not been accused of any criminal activity or unseemly behavior.

“What do you think about this?” he asked.  


Youmi Kim, in the VOA Seoul bureau, contributed to this report.

Timeline of the Petraeus Scandal
Loading...

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs