A large amount of chemicals was dumped by the U.S. Forces Korea at the former Camp Mercer in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, a former serviceman claims in a message that belatedly came to wider public notice Tuesday.
In the message on the Korean War Project website posted in May 2004, an American veteran, retired Master Sgt. Ray Bows, claimed the USFK buried "hundreds of gallons" of chemical materials at Camp Mercer between 1963 and 1964. The claim follows revelations that the USFK buried lethal chemicals at Camp Carroll in Chilgok, North Gyeongsang Province in the late 70s.
"We dug a pit with a bulldozer -- donned rubber suits and gas masks and dump every imaginable chemical -- hundreds of gallons if not more -- into the ground," Bows wrote.
Bows said he was stationed with the 547th Engineering Corps at Camp Mercer from July 1963 to April 1964, and worked for the U.S. Army Chemical Depot Korea. He said the chemical materials were buried on "a knoll behind the second storage warehouse on the right" from the camp's front gate. He did not say what sorts of chemicals were buried.
According to Bows, the depot then moved to Camp Carroll in March or April 1964 "because the chemical depot was too close to the Demilitarized Zone." When he returned to Korea and revisited Camp Mercer in 1978, he was surprised to find there was "no noticeable change" to the plant ecology in the area.
Bows' message came to wider attention when a Korean-American journalist, Ahn Chi-yong, mentioned it on his blog Tuesday.
The old Camp Mercer is now occupied by an engineering unit of the Korean Army. The U.S. Corps of Engineers and U.S. Army Chemical Corps had been stationed on the 400,000 sq. m. site since July 1954. It was handed over to the Korean Army in September 1992.
The city of Bucheon in an urgent meeting Tuesday asked the military to allow the city to participate in inspecting the soil for contamination.