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S. Korea chairs IAEA board for the first time

Sept. 27, 2021 - 18:04 By Ahn Sung-mi
IAEA (123rf)

South Korea has been named the next head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors, marking the first time a Korean representative is to hold the post since the UN nuclear watchdog was established in 1957, the Foreign Ministry said Monday. 

Shin Chae-hyun, the South Korean ambassador to Austria and permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, was elected as the chairman of the board during a meeting held in Vienna on Monday. His one-year term starts Monday and lasts until September 2022. Shin replaces Ambassador Heidi Alberta Hulan of Canada. 

With this role, Shin will lead the 35-member board of governors, one of the two highest policymaking bodies of the IAEA along with the annual General Conference. Shin will chair the five annual meetings and special sessions of the board, and help them reach consensus on decisions, as well as communicate with the director general, the secretariat and related organizations. 

The board, which is responsible for most of the IAEA’s policymaking, examines and recommends the agenda for the General Conference on the organization’s budget and programs, including nuclear verification and safeguards such as North Korea and Iran’s nuclear issues, as well as nuclear security, safety and technology. 

South Korea, which joined the IAEA as one of the initial members in 1957, views the appointment as a meaningful diplomatic feat and a testament of its positive contribution to the UN agency’s peaceful uses of nuclear technology and nonproliferation initiative, a ministry official said.

“Through the chairmanship, South Korea will expand its engagement and contribution in IAEA’s core issues and solidify the international community’s support on North Korea’s nuclear issues and for peace and stability on the peninsula,” the ministry said in the statement. 

The chairmanship of the board rotates among eight geographical regions who take turns putting forward their own nominee every year. 

A ministry official said South Korea received full backing for the position from the Far East group, which includes Japan -- who chaired the board six out of seven times in the past -- as well as China, Vietnam, Philippines and Mongolia.