Cho, at right, will hold the highest South Korean government job ever taken by a North Korean refugee

South Korea has decided to appoint a North Korean defector to head a government research institute.

Cho Myung-chul, an economist, was handed a certificate of appointment on Wednesday morning at the South Korean Unification Ministry in Seoul, South Korea's capital.

Cho, who currently works at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, is set to take the post of chief of the ministry-affiliated Education Centre for Unification later this week.

Media reports say Cho had once taught at Kim Il-Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, and defected in 1994.

It would be the highest South Korean government job that a North Korean refugee has ever taken.

More than 21,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea to avoid political oppression and hunger since the Korean War ended in a cease-fire rather than a peace treaty in 1953.

Source: Agencies