For the first time since joining the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1957, South Korea has been elected to serve as Chair of the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors.
Following a unanimous decision at Monday's board meeting in Vienna, South Korean Ambassador to Austria Shin Chae-hyun, will serve as the Chairperson of the Board for a one-year term starting in 2021.
Shin also represents the Permanent Mission of South Korea to the International Organizations in Vienna.
Eight regional groups at the UN nuclear watchdog take turns every year as board chair.
South Korea belongs to the Far East group at the IAEA, and sources say there has been a consensus among all the other five countries in the group regarding the chair position going to Seoul.
So far, Japan has held the chair six times and Vietnam once.
The IAEA Board plays a key role in discussing matters related to nuclear issues, including nuclear verification of North Korea and Iran, nuclear safety, technology and security.
South Korea aims to engage in the IAEA's key issues, while solidifying international support for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Sources say this will lead to closer coordination with other countries, including the U.S., China and Russia, on the North Korea nuclear issue.
As Chair, the South Korean diplomat will be presiding over five board meetings a year and committee meetings twice a year, working closely with member countries as a coordinator.
Seoul's foreign ministry says South Korea was elected Chair based on its efforts for non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and in particular as a core related party when it comes to nuclear issues involving North Korea.
Ministry officials say it has also been increasing its financial contributions to the IAEA, which are now the 11th largest in the world.
Yoon Jung-min, Arirang News.