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Thursday, 16 December, 1999, 21:39 GMT
Koreans sue over war chemicals

South Korean soldiers Some 17,000 veterans are suing Monsanto and Dow Chemical


Thousands of Vietnam War veterans from South Korea are suing two United States chemical manufacturers for more than $4bn, claiming that defoliants such as Agent Orange produced by the firms damaged their health.

Defoliants were used to clear large areas of ground cover during the conflict.


Vietnamese children with birth defects Defoliants have been linked to birth defects
Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to the development of cancers and congenital birth defects.

The two firms involved, Monsanto and Dow Chemical, have disclaimed responsibility for any harm done to more than 17,000 veterans and their families claiming damages.

"There have been no court cases to substantiate the noxiousness of defoliants produced by the firms," attorney Kwang Soo-Yong told the court.

The US firms halted production of the defoliants in 1970, and US military stocks were incinerated in the mid-1970s.

In an out-of-court settlement in 1984, Agent Orange manufacturers paid Australian, Canadian and New Zealand veterans, but not South Koreans.

Clear border

South Korean troops fought alongside the Americans during the Vietnam War.


Korean war A file photo of refugees in the Korean War
South Korean officials have said 59,000 gallons of defoliants were spread along the Korean border in 1968-69. At least 50,000 soldiers were involved in manual spraying.

The two Koreas have been technically at war following their 1950-53 conflict.

The Pentagon has admitted to having planned and supervised the spraying of the defoliants in South Korea.

But it has ruled out US compensation to South Koreans exposed to Agent Orange.

Effects unknown

South Korea's defence chief Cho Sung-tae said on a KBS-TV debate that officials used the herbicides because North Korea used the dense foliage along the border as cover to infiltrate armed agents.

The negative health effects were not known at the time, he said.

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See also:
19 Nov 99 |  Crossing continents
Poisoned legacy of the Vietnam War
10 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Korean veterans demand compensation
17 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
New row over Agent Orange

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