On Twitter, John Cha asks, “What is an ‘honorary counsel’ ROK and when was she given the title?”
Well, Mr. Cha, the Seoul Sinmun is happy to explain.
The lovely Jill Kelley was named an honorary consul of the ROK in September, apparently on the recommendation of former Korean ambassador to the US Han Duk-soo, who instructed the Korean consulate in Atlanta to give Ms. Kelley the honor just prior to his resignation in February.
In a phone call with the Seoul Sinmun, Kim Hui-beom (or however he spells it), the Korean consul-general in Atlanta, said Han instructed she be made an honorary consul for contributing to the conclusion of the KORUS FTA. Kim said all the procedures were followed—they looked at her record, interviewed her, got approval from the Foreign Ministry and submitted documents to the US State Department.
Kim did say, however, that it was rare for an ambassador to choose somebody for the honor. He said most honorary consuls are old folk who served in the Korean War. Ms. Kelley, on the other hand, is just 37, and as far as Kim knows is the first woman ever named honorary consul.
Former ambassador Han—now chairman of the Korea International Trade Association—tells it differently, though. He said he met Kelley for the first time in Florida as he was going around America to promote the KORUS FTA, and that he had no particular tie to her. He said Kelley said she wanted to help Korea—US relations, and that he named her in accordance with procedures after the consulate in Atlanta recommended her for the honorary position.
Meanwhile, the Seoul Shinmun reports there’s concern Kelley may be misusing her position as honorary consul. On Nov 11, Kelley apparently called 911 and demanded cops remove reporters from her lawn, citing diplomatic “inviolability” (mention in Elgin’s post here). According to Tampa area media, including Tampa Bay Online, she apparently drives a Benz with “Honorary Consul 1JK” on its plates, too.
Anyway, don’t expect Ms. Kelley to hold on to her gig as honorary Korean consul for much longer. No biggie, as the job never really came with the diplomatic perks anyway.