Scandal Grows Over U.S. Chemical Dump in Korea

Scandal Grows Over U.S. Chemical Dump in Korea

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New revelations about the secret dumping of toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange, by American military forces in Korea has sparked renewed mistrust in the country over the actions of its longtime ally.

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, in the central province of 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, though they only gained attention 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 the southern city of 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.