New America Media, Commentary, Peter Schurmann and Jin Kim, Posted: May 26, 2011
In 2006, a film about U.S. military scientists dumping chemicals into Seoul’s waterways took South Korea by storm. Based on actual events, “The Host” broke box office records across the country, a slapstick horror about an over-sized monster that emerges from the depths of the Han River to terrorize the city.
Powerless to stand in the way of their more powerful partner, South Koreans resorted to comedy then, laughing at the toxic creature of American making. But with revelations emerging last week that United
States Forces in Korea (USFK) buried large amounts of hazardous chemicals, including the defoliant Agent Orange, Koreans’ sense of humor and trust may be wearing thin.
“As a former soldier with the South Korean army, I understand the need to maintain American forces in the country,” says Dong Hwan Kim, who still serves with the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) reserves. A native of Bucheon, a satellite city 20 km outside of Seoul and home to Camp Mercer, where U.S. forces are said to have buried the chemicals, Kim say she now feels “a sense of betrayal” and wonders if he will ever again be able to trust Seoul’s most important ally.
Washington has maintained some 30,000 soldiers in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, primarily as defense against North Korea.
Reuters news service noted yesterday that Seoul had launched a second investigation into the allegations surrounding USFK activities at Camp Mercer, near the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. The move came after South Korean media uncovered statements made a
decade ago by a former U.S. soldier on the American website for former U.S. service members, Korean War Project, that “every imaginable chemical” had been buried at the camp between 1963 and 1964.
Last week, three American ex-servicemen admitted to burying Agent Orange at Camp Carroll near the city of Daegu, 300 km southeast of Seoul, leading to a joint USFK-Korea investigation.
On Monday, USFK confirmed that Agent Orange, widely used during the Vietnam War and later to clear foliage around the DMZ dividing the two Korea's, was buried at the camp but that it was later removed. Soil samples taken years later revealed trace amounts of dioxin, a key ingredient in
Agent Orange, USFK officials said.
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