Jong-yang, who had been serving as acting president, was elected for a two-year term at the body’s annual congress in Dubai on Wednesday, finishing the four-year term of his predecessor who was arrested in China this year.
“Our world is now facing unprecedented changes which present huge challenges to public security and safety,” Jong-yang told Interpol’s general assembly, according to the agency’s Twitter handle.
“To overcome them, we need a clear vision: we need to build a bridge to the future.”
Jong-yang, 57, worked in the South Korean police for more than 20 years before retiring in 2015.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in congratulated Jong-yang on becoming the first South Korean to head the organisation.
“We’re very proud. I, together with our people, am sending congratulations,” Jae-in wrote on Twitter.
— INTERPOL (@INTERPOL_HQ) November 21, 2018
The South Korean’s election is a blow to Moscow’s efforts to reserve the position for a Russian candidate, Alexander Prokopchuk.
The United States, Britain and other European nations rejected Prokopchuk’s candidature saying his election would lead to further Russian abuses of Interpol’s red notice system to go after political opponents and fugitive dissidents.
Following the vote on Wednesday, the Kremlin said that clear outside pressure had been exerted on the election, but that it did not see any factors that would render the process illegitimate, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
Interpol is best known for issuing “red notices” that identify a suspect pursued by a country, effectively putting him or her on the world’s “most-wanted” list.
William Browder, a British fund manager critical of the Kremlin who has been arrested repeatedly at Russia’s behest before being released again, told BBC radio in London: “[Prokopchuk] has been responsible for trying to chase me down and have Interpol arrest me seven times.”
The election of Jong-yang comes following former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei’s resignation after he was arrested in China in September on bribery and corruption charges.
Meng had disappeared in China for 13 days before his arrest was made public in October.
China’s Ministry of Public Security said that Meng’s suspected corruption and violation of laws “gravely jeopardised” the ruling party and the police, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.
Authorities also said Meng was in this situation due to his own “willfulness and for bringing trouble upon himself”.
France, which hosts Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, received Meng‘s resignation as president of Interpol with immediate effect.
Meng‘s wife Grace said her husband sent her an image of a knife before he disappeared during a trip to their native China.
Making her first public comments on the issue, Grace told reporters in Lyon that she thought the knife was her husband’s way of trying to tell her he was in danger.
She said she has had no further contact with him since the message that was sent on September 25. Grace also said four minutes before Meng shared the image, he had sent a message saying: “Wait for my call.”
She read a statement during her press conference in Lyon, but would not allow reporters to show her face, saying she feared for her own safety and that of her two children.