[FOUNTAIN]Chemical weapons

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[FOUNTAIN]Chemical weapons

On April 22, 1915, in the middle of World War I, the German Army resumed artillery attacks at 5 p.m. in Ypres, northwest Belgium. A greenish-yellow cloud flowed on the wind from the German side to the allies' positions. Sticking out their heads from the trench out of curiosity, soldiers of the allies smelled chlorine and that was the end of it. They fell to the ground grasping their necks, moaning and calling for help. The commotion lasted only a while; then silence fell over on the allied positions.

Because of the German Army's chlorine gas attack, allied forces suffered enormous damage: 5,000 died, 15,000 were injured and 5,000 were captured. In a few minutes, about two army divisions were destroyed.

But the use of chemical weapons extends far back into history. In the fourth century B.C., when Alexander the Great invaded Tyrus, Syria, his army fired burning missiles made from sulfur to the inner parts of a castle.

There is a theory that red pepper was conveyed to Korea because Japan brought it for chemical warfare when invading Korea in 1592.

After World War I, many countries developed poison gases. Despite the Geneva Convention in 1925 that prohibited the use of chemical weapons, a series of new gases appeared. The Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty forbids five types of chemical weapons: nerve, blister, choking, blood and incapacitating agents. The chlorine used by the German Army in 1915 was a blister gas, and the sarin gas released by a religious cult called Aum Shinrikyo in a Tokyo subway in 1995 was a nerve gas.

Chemical weapons were used only a few times in actual warfare. The Italian Army used them in Ethiopia during World War II and the United States sprayed defoliants in the Vietnam War. Most recently, Iraq used them against the Kurds in Iraq. Chemical weapons, sometimes called the nuclear weapons for the poor, are threatening peace around the globe. The rescue operation in Moscow last week reminds us of the power of poison gas. What kind of gas was used was unknown as this was written, but it killed over 100 persons.

A report by the National Intelligence Service that North Korea already has 4,000 tons of chemical weapons makes us shudder. Eradicating weapons like these is the first step to establish peace in Korea as well as in the world.

The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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