Korea and the U.S. agreed to jointly investigate claims by three American veterans that the U.S. Forces Korea buried large amounts of the lethal defoliant Agent Orange left over from the Vietnam War at Camp Carroll in Waegwan, North Gyeongsang Province in 1978.
In a press briefing on Sunday, Yook Dong-han, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said, "The agreement was made at a meeting between Lim Kwan-bin, the chief of policy at the Defense Ministry and Lt. Gen. John Johnson, the commander of the 8th U.S. Army."
An official with the Prime Minister's Office said the investigation team will consist of Korean and American environmental experts and government officials as well as local residents and civic group members. They will start investigating as soon as their brief has been agreed.
The U.S. government is questioning the three former servicemen, who made the claim in a television interview last week.
Lt. Gen. Johnson in a press release Sunday pledged all the pertinent information will be scrutinized and every effort made to ensure a transparent probe. He added the U.S. will share all the data available and its own investigation plans at Camp Carroll.
Johnson on Saturday toured the suspected sites at Camp Carroll alongside Shin Kyung-soo, the deputy chief of international policy at the Defense Ministry, and Dr. Lee Won-suk of the Environment Ministry. He is to visit the sites again on Monday, along with Environment Ministry officials, civilian experts and representatives of civic groups and local residents.
The U.S. military will also give a briefing on the quality of the groundwater and the history of plots of land where various facilities have been built.
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.
But experts said it is too early to link the mortality rates in Chilgok to dioxin poisoning, because the rates are generally higher in other parts of North Gyeongsang Province as well as Chilgok, and the dumping of the chemicals has not been confirmed yet.