Mr Kim was chosen by Interpol’s 194 member states at a meeting of its annual congress in Dubai.
He beat Russia’s Alexander Prokopchuk, who had been widely tipped to win.
But there was growing concern that Mr Prokopchuk would use the role to target critics of Russia’s President Putin.
The election follows the disappearance of Interpol’s former president Meng Hongwei, who vanished on a trip to China in September. Beijing has since confirmed he has been detained and is being investigated for allegedly taking bribes.
Mr Kim will serve out the remaining two years of Mr Meng’s term.
What is Interpol for?
Interpol is an international organization aimed at preventing and combating crime and terrorism. It allows its one hundred and ninety-two member countries to transmit, exchange and consult police information, even if there is no diplomatic relationship between them. Its president is elected by the general assembly, composed of delegates appointed by each member country, for a four-year term.
Created in 1923 in Vienna under the name of “International Criminal Police Commission” (ICPC), it came under the control of Nazi Germany in 1938 following the annexation of Austria. Most countries end their participation, and ICPC ceases to exist as an international organization. It was reborn only after World War II, in 1946, under the name of “Interpol”, whose seat is in France.
Politically neutral, it has no right to intervene in cases involving only one member country. Its activities include drug trafficking and production, terrorism, money laundering, organized crime and transnational crime