Chemicals buried near Seoul in ’60s, says veteran

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Chemicals buried near Seoul in ’60s, says veteran

As Washington and Seoul start investigating a report that large amounts of Agent Orange were buried at Camp Carroll in 1978, a similarly alarming claim by a former U.S. soldier in Korea about another dumping has surfaced.

Veteran Ray Bows said in a post on the “Korean War Project” Web site that U.S. Forces Korea buried “hundreds of gallons” of “every imaginable chemical” at Camp Mercer in Bucheon, Gyeonggi, between 1963 and 1964. Bows said he served at the camp from July 1963 to April 1964, working with the U.S. Army Chemical Depot Korea (USACDK).

Bow posted the claims more than 10 years ago, but they got noticed in Korea yesterday.

He said the USACDK was considered to be too close to the Demilitarized Zone and was moved in 1964 to Camp Carroll near Daegu, where three U.S. veterans now say they buried Agent Orange defoliant in the 1970s.

Bows did not say which chemicals were buried at Camp Mercer and whether Agent Orange was among them. He also did not say how those materials were managed or disposed of since the 1960s.

The Agent Orange case surfaced when veteran Steve House told an Arizona television channel last week that USFK buried about 250 55-gallon drums of Agent Orange at Camp Carroll in 1978.

In a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo from his home near Phoenix on Sunday, House said he has found four other veterans, including one officer, who will testify to the dumping of the Agent Orange.

House said he and other soldiers were ordered to dig a hole the size of a soccer field to deal with the disposal in April and May of 1978 and they buried 250 drums with covers marked with the words “Vietnam” and “Compound Orange.” More drums were buried through the autumn of 1978, 30 to 40 drums at a time, he said.

He said there is possibility that Agent Orange was buried in Korea even before 1978. The U.S. Defense Department said it conducted a closed-door interview with House on Monday to verify the claim.

USFK said on Monday that its review of military records found “trace amounts” of dioxins in Camp Carroll. Dioxins are an Agent Orange ingredient that has caused widespread health problems and birth defects in Vietnam, where it was used during the Vietnam War. But USFK said there is still no direct indication that Agent Orange was buried at the camp. A joint investigation agreed upon by Seoul and Washington is yet to begin.

At a media briefing yesterday, Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman Cho Byung-jae said both governments consider the issue serious but Seoul has no plan to discuss the U.S.-ROK Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) because of the case. A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said Seoul and Washington will meet today to discuss how to form a joint investigation team.


By Moon Gwang-lip, Kim Jung-wook [joe@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
“고엽제 묻었다는 미군 4명 더 찾았다”
첫 폭로 전 주한미군 하우스

경북 칠곡군 왜관에 위치한 미군 기지(캠프 캐럴) 내 고엽제 매립 의혹은 스티브 하우스(Steve House·54) 등 전 주한미군 병사 3명으로부터 비롯됐다. 이들의 주장이 16일(현지시간) 미 애리조나주 피닉스 소재 한 민영방송에 소개되면서다. 그는 “1978년 캠프 캐럴 근무 당시 동료들과 함께 기지 뒤편에 구덩이를 판 뒤 고엽제가 담긴 55갤런(208L)들이 노란색 드럼통 수백 개를 묻었다”고 말했다. 그는 78년 2월~79년 2월 1년간 캠프 캐럴에서 근무했다.

 애리조나주 피닉스 근처에 살고 있는 하우스는 22일 전화 인터뷰에서 “보도 이후 당시 고엽제 매립 사실을 증언하는 미군 장교 1명과 사병 3명을 추가로 찾아냈다”고 말했다. 그는 “한국과 미국 정부의 조사에 적극 협력할 것이며, 한국 방문 용의도 있다”고 말했다.

 그는 “78년 4~5월께 폐기물을 처리하기 위해 축구장 크기의 거대한 구덩이를 파라는 명령을 받았다. 드럼통 겉면에 ‘베트남 지역’과 고엽제(콤파운드 오렌지)라고 선명하게 쓰여 있었다. 처음 2주간 드럼통 약 250개를 파묻었다. 이후 가끔씩 30~40개씩의 드럼통을 가을까지 계속 묻었다”고 설명했다. 이어 “78년 이전에도 고엽제가 매립됐을 가능성이 있는 만큼 한국과 미국 정부가 협의를 통해 조사 시기를 더욱 넓힐 필요가 있다”고 강조했다. 하우스는 “고엽제 매립을 주장하게 된 건 기독교인으로서 죽기 전에 진실을 말하고 싶었다” 고 했다.

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