November 14th, 2012
11:19 AM ET

Jill Kelley, honorary consul

From Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

In a 911 call, aspiring socialite Jill Kelley demands that police in Tampa, Florida, help remove people from her property, describing herself as an “honorary consul general.”

"I am an honorary consul general,” the 911 recording says. “… I have inviolability. They should not be on my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic, uh, protection involved as well. It's against the law to cross my property …"

Kelley, it turns out, is an “honorary consul” for the South Korean government, according to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The official South Korean news agency Yonhap reports that Kelley had "good connections and network and a willingness to develop Korea-U.S. relations, including the free trade agreement between the two nations."

South Korean officials tell CNN that “an honorary consul can generally play a role of promoting trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.”

South Korean Presidential Decree No. 23706 describes the duties as anything from “work(ing) to protect Korean national/resident living abroad” to “promoting interacting of trade, economy, art, science and education.”

The honorary post, however, has no official responsibilities, in spite of Kelley’s attempts to invoke “inviolability.” Yonhap cites a South Korean official as saying that “she will be relieved from the symbolic post if she is found to be problematic.”

Cho Tae-yong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, tells CNN: “Nothing is decided. We are currently observing the situation closely.”

Kelley also had “honorary consul” license plates on her car. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles tells CNN that she has the plates because she is an “honorary consulate.”

But the State Department and the Defense Department stress that Kelley has no official job with the U.S. government. She was strictly a volunteer.

Jennifer Clinton, president of the National Council for International Visitors, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., tells CNN: “From what I understand, she was a volunteer to our member organization in Tampa.”

“What the volunteers do typically is host some of the international visitors for dinner, or they’ll speak to them and provide information about the local community,” she said.

The council specializes in “citizen diplomacy,” which builds “person-to-person relationships ‘one handshake at a time.’ ” The council, in turn, helps implement international visitor programs for the State Department.

But such a “citizen diplomat” designation carries no legal or diplomatic privileges, even if Kelley tried to give that impression.

Kelley was also given the title of “honorary ambassador” by the U.S. Central Command, according to a defense official. The title is, “meaningless” and holds no power and is given for recognition of specific work, according the official.

The title is nothing more than a certificate given by CENTCOM’s Coalition Coordination Center, a group of military representatives from different countries which are working with the United States on terrorism issues. That group, led by a low-level U.S. military officer, recommended Kelley for the title.  It is unclear when she was given this title. As a honorary ambassador, Kelley would have duties such as organizing and facilitating unclassified briefings for community leaders to help them better understand the work of the U.S. Central Command and its allies, according to the official.

In a different role, Kelley also hosted many events off-base to honor members of the military and was hosting one when her name became public for her role in the Petraeus scandal, the official said.   At that event, Vice Admiral Robert Harward, CENTCOM’s Deputy Commander had stopped by briefly as a guest, according to the official.

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