Jill Kelley is also an ‘honorary consul’ for South Korea

November 14, 2012

Jill Kelley, second from right, at a party in 2010 with her twin sister Natalie Khawam, Gen. David Petraeus, her husband Scott, and Holly Petraeus. The Kelleys threw a party on their front lawn to watch the annual Gasparilla parade. (Amy Scherzer/AP)

The Tampa-based socialite whose name seems to keep popping up in the David Petraeus scandal, and whose volunteer work at the nearby MacDill Air Force Base earned her an "honorary ambassador" title with no official responsibilities or rights, got caught calling 911 on Monday to claim diplomatic "inviolability." She also suggested that she should be given "diplomatic protection" to guard against the reporters outside her home.

It was a baffling claim given her purely honorary title, though consistent with what might be an inflated view of her role at the base; she had been known to drop the "honorary" from her title, sometimes assigned tasks to military staff, and drives a Mercedes with "Honorary Consul" vanity plates.

But now South Korean diplomatic officials have added a new piece to this puzzle. According to a Korean (non-honorary) diplomatic official in Atlanta who spoke to the Yonhap News Agency, Kelley for some reason had an "honorary consul" title from the South Korean government:

ATLANTA/WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- Jill Kelley, a Tampa socialite who helped expose CIA Director David Petraeus's career-ending affair, serves as an honorary consul of South Korea, diplomats here confirmed Wednesday.

"The appointment of Kelley as honorary consul followed normal procedures," said Kim Hee-beom, South Korea's consul general in Atlanta. He emphasized that there was no irregularity in tapping her for the largely symbolic post.

No irregularity at all! An anonymous diplomatic official told Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin that Kelley "helped to get support for [the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement] and she arranged meetings between the ROK Ambassador to Washington and local businessmen when the ROK Ambassador visited the Tampa area."

This isn't the only foreign embassy with which Kelley reportedly had contact. She is "believed to have attended the farewell party for Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the former British ambassador to the U.S., in Washington last year," according to the U.K. Telegraph. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told CNN that he had himself met Kelley at "one or two events at the British embassy."

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Olga Khazan | November 14, 2012