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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid