TOKYO — Interpol elected South Korean Kim Jong-yang as its new president Wednesday, choosing him over a veteran of Russia’s security services whose candidacy had raised concerns in the United States and Europe, news agencies reported.
The international police body’s reputation had already suffered after it elected a former senior official from China’s feared Public Security Ministry in 2016. Meng Hongwei was subsequently reported missing in early October while on a trip to China, before Chinese authorities announced he had been detained on corruption charges.
That turn of events led to Wednesday’s snap election, where the candidacy of Alexander Prokopchuk, a former major general in Russia’s Interior Ministry, had set off alarm bells in Washington, London and across Western Europe.
In the end, though, delegates from the 192 member states endorsed Kim, who was serving as acting president. He will serve until 2020, completing Meng’s original four-year term.
Russia and other countries have been accused of abusing Interpol’s system of “red notice” alerts to harass political opponents and dissidents, often causing them to be stopped at airports and detained by police.
Interpol serves as a clearinghouse for national police services pursuing suspects outside their borders. While day-to-day work is handled by Secretary General Jürgen Stock of Germany, the presidency is still an influential role.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that the United States strongly supported Kim for the role, and the State Department had also lobbied hard behind the scenes.
Four U.S. senators issued a statement Monday that electing Prokopchuk would amount to “putting a fox in charge of a henhouse.”
Russia responded by calling the senators’ letter an example of “interference in the electoral process.”
On Wednesday, the Kremlin said clear outside pressure had been exerted on the election but that it did not see any reasons to declare the vote illegitimate, Russian new agencies reported.
In Europe, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt had warned that “democratic and free countries may need to develop a parallel organization” if Prokopchuk were elected.
“Russia has consistently misused Interpol to pursue its political opponents,” he wrote Tuesday on Twitter.