U.S. Veterans Admit Burying Deadly Chemical in Korea

The Environment Ministry is investigating claims by three American veterans that the U.S. Forces Korea buried the toxic defoliant Agent Orange at one of their bases in Korea. KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona on Monday broadcast interviews with the three.

One of them, Steve House, who served as a heavy machinery operator at Camp Carroll in Waegwan, North Gyeongsang Province in 1978 said, "Yeah, it haunts me. We basically buried our garbage in their back yard." The soldiers were ordered to dig a ditch almost the size of a city block. "Fifty-five gallon drums with bright yellow, some of them bright orange, writing on them," said House. "And some of the cans said Province of Vietnam, Compound Orange."

Robert Travis, who served at Camp Carroll with House, said, "There were approximately 250 drums, all OD green," adding he remembers hand-wheeling each barrel out of the warehouse. Travis said he developed a red rash all over his body after accidentally touching the chemical that seeped out of the drums. Agent Orange was widely used during the Vietnam War and is an extremely toxic chemical based on the carcinogenic compound dioxin and causes trees and plants to wither and die.

The Environment Ministry said Thursday it will launch an investigation of the environmental effects, including contamination to the underground water supply and rivers, following an on-site inspection of Camp Carroll and consultations with experts.

A ministry official said, "We asked the U.S. military to verify the location and other information about the claims but have only been told that they are looking into the information but have so far been unable to find relevant records." He added the ministry is willing to conduct a joint investigation with the U.S.

The Eighth U.S. Army, which oversees Camp Carroll, in a statement said it will conduct "additional investigations."

englishnews@chosun.com / May 20, 2011 13:38 KST