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Tuesday, 24 May 2011 05:13

US admits dumping dangerous chemicals in S Korea

US admits dumping dangerous chemicals in S Korea

Civic group activists launch a protest against the U.S. military that buried harmful substances in Camp Carroll in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province, in 1978, near the U.S. Embassy in central Seoul, Monday.

According to Press TV, the Eighth U.S. Army based in Korea acknowledged Monday that it had buried harmful chemical substances that included dioxin at Camp Carroll in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province.

U.S. general John D. Johnson said he discovered a 1992 study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which indicates that a large number of drums containing chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and solvents were buried in the vicinity of the area identified by former soldiers in news reports.

U.S. Forces in South Korea has been investigating the case following a news report by Phoenix-based broadcaster KPHO, in which former U.S. soldiers stationed at Camp Carroll said that they buried 250 drums of leftover Agent Orange in the camp compound in the late 1970s.

It was a former USFK soldier, Steven House, who first exposed the incident to the U.S. media by admitting that he was involved in burying the toxic material at Camp Carroll.

In a later interview with the Korean press, however, he argued that the total amount of Agent Orange dumped is twice as much as what had been known.

He said the USFK first buried about 250 55-gallon drums of the defoliant that had been stored in a warehouse, and then buried a similar number of drums brought from other parts of the country on 15 to 20 occasions.

Considering the fact that Korea and the U.S. had conducted an operation to spray the toxic compound across an area near the DMZ - which is particularly susceptible to infiltration by the North Korean military - it is doubtful that illegal burying of Agent Orange took place in that camp alone.

The two countries’ agreement to confine the investigation to Camp Carroll may trigger further suspicion.

They should be prepared for the possibility that the investigation will have to be extended to other U.S. bases.

Dioxin, a main ingredient of Agent Orange, is a material with toxicity 10,000 times stronger than that of potassium cyanide, which is used in some suicides. If more than 100 tons of such a material has been buried only 650 meters (0.4 miles) away from a tributary of the Nakdong River for more than three decades, that’s utterly dire news.

According to Statistics Korea's data on causes of death by region, the cancer death rate in the Chilgok area, of which Waegwan is a part, was between 0.6 to 18.3 people more than the national average between 2005 and 2009.

The mortality rate for diseases of the nervous system in Chilgok was also above the national average in 2005-2009, except in 2006.

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