Agent Orange outrageRetired American soldiers delivered horrific testimony that the U.S. Army’s Camp Carroll in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang dumped and buried tons of the defoliant Agent Orange in the 1970s.
Exposure to the toxic herbicide used during the Vietnam War has been proven to cause serious illnesses like cancer and birth defects. We are dumbfounded to discover that such toxic chemicals have been under the ground a few miles from the Nakdong River for more than three decades.
The act - no matter how long ago it took place - is still a crime that calls for accountability.
American forces in South Korea have been under fire several times for their heedless environmental contamination. Many areas near military bases have been polluted with oil leaks and an army hospital at Yongsan base in Seoul was identified as having dumped phenol waste into the Han River.
The burial of Agent Orange poses a serious environmental hazard. If toxic dioxin from corroded storage drums seeps into the Nakdong River, the consequences would be grave. The dumping, which took place 34 years ago, can trigger public anger and distrust toward American military bases as well as triggering broad anti-American sentiment.
If American military authorities try to duck away from accountability or fail to pursue an investigation, the case could result in mass protests against the U.S. military’s presence in South Korea. When American military officials protected the soldiers who ran over and killed two South Korean teenagers nine years ago, activists and students took to the streets en masse and led nationwide vigil protests against the American forces.
The environment ministry has demanded that U.S. defense officials embark on an investigation of the case. The U.S. military must track down the people behind the order to bury the toxic material and use all possible means to eliminate the chemical remnants and detoxify the contaminated area.
Korean and U.S. officials should join forces to examine the health of residents near the area and make due compensation to those found to have fallen ill as a result of being exposed to the harmful substance.
They also must carry out a thorough environmental check-up on all American bases in the country to prevent the case developing into an issue of conflict between the two countries.