▲ Graham Nelson visited NLCS Jeju for a rare consular clinic and stressed the importance of Jeju and its expat community to British interests in the region. Photo by Kim Jinmi
A consular clinic was held Sept. 30 at North London Collegiate School Jeju (NLCS Jeju) as Her Majesty’s Consul and Director of Consular Services for Japan, Korea and Taiwan, Graham Nelson, flew in to serve the British community on the island. Nelson said it wasn’t a trip he made reluctantly.
“I’m fortunate that I get to come over to Korea four or five times a year but it’s mostly Seoul and Busan ... I just hope that I can find more excuses to come back again [to Jeju] in the future,” he said.
Nelson oversees British consular interests across the East Asian region from the British Embassy in Tokyo. Services are provided to individual persons and businesses, as defined by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. (See the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to compare with inter-state diplomacy.)
Under Article 5 of the Convention, functions include protecting the interests of state nationals and corporate bodies and furthering the development of commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between the host and sending nations. This diversity means Nelson’s work touches people’s lives in a variety of ways.
“The work we do is about giving oppor-tunities for British nationals to live and thrive in Korea ... preparation for crises but also helping in the happier occasions, like getting married, so the whole spectrum. We’ve also got really strong business and prosperity relations and we help British businesses thrive in Korea and equally Korean businesses to invest in the UK.”
An embassy is a state’s main diplomatic mission while a consulate is another diplomatic mission within the same country. The UK maintains both the British Embassy in Seoul and the British Honorary Consul in Busan, which provides limited consular services.
The Jeju consular clinic, the first such event held on Jeju, enabled Britons on the island to access these consular serv-ices, such as notarial services normally only available in Seoul, including affida-vits for eligibility of marriage, admin-istering of oaths, and notarising driving license certificates.
Nelson was also keen to support British interests on the island, which he says are well recognized.
“Jeju’s got a thriving tourist industry, a thriving education industry, a thriving medical industry and science and technology and there are many areas of potential to expand that relationship and we are very interested [in that],” he said.
Nelson has worked in most countries across the region, speaking Japanese, Chinese and some Korean. His work has enabled him to develop a true appre-ciation of the idiosyncrasies of each country: “I have been really fortunate to get under the surface of those cultures and to really discover the friendship and the openness of those people,” he said.
The nature of the position thus neces-sitates a thorough understanding of the region and Nelson enthuses his passion on the topic.
“What catalyzed me to [pursue] this line of work was working in Japan ... and immersing myself in the culture ... I love the all of the countries in this region and they all have their unique qualities. It’s diplomatic but true: you would struggle to find someone who is more engaged in this region.”
The visit to Jeju was prompted by need and also the British interests present here, such as NLCS Jeju and English teachers on the island. Nelson explains that it is only financial constraints that limit further consular outreach events.
“[Jeju] is a very important community for us and it is also a little bit harder for citizens to access our services. It is also important for us to get out and to support people and to understand how we can better meet their needs,” he said.
Supporting Britons’ needs abroad means Nelson encounters some regret-table situations for all parties.
“[W]hether it ranges from punching a snowman in Japan and being fined 6,000 pounds ... or running off with a karaoke cardboard and equally getting into a great deal of trouble ... It is always amazing that things that would be regarded as fairly trivial in the UK can actually have heavy repercussions over-seas,” he said.
One issue that is not regarded as trivial by many among the British community is pension reimbursement - or lack thereof. Nelson is sympathetic if matter-of-fact about this.
“In order to harmonize the reim-bursement structures we would have to be reimbursing Korean individuals in the UK their National Insurance contri-butions and that would go against the spirit of the welfare state’s structure ... so I think it is going to be very hard to ... find a breakthrough in the near future,” he said.
Despite this note of disjuncture, Nelson maintains the relations between Korea and the UK are only getting stronger.
“[W]hether it is educational exchange, building on the London Olympics and the green growth message there ... or in cultural exchange through the British Council ... we have incredibly strong ties and they are only getting stronger.”
For more information on British consular services in Korea, please visit: gov.uk/government/world/organisations/british-embassy-seoul or call (+82) (2) 3210 5500
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