Friday, December 29, 2006

Agent Orange Was Used in Korea

"Agent Orange" is practically synonymous with the Vietnam War. The Dow Chemical defoliant
was used to de-junglize large areas, exposing enemy troops, supplies, and infiltrators. It has been
linked, though never definitively, to a number of nasty health problems such as Hodgkin's
disease and adult-onset diabetes, plus spina bifida in offspring. The Veterans Administration
compensates sick veterans who were exposed in Vietnam.
But it turns out that 'Nam wasn't the only place to get doused with this super-herbicide. From
April 1968 to July 1969, 21,000 gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed along a strip of land
abutting the southern border of the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. During that time
period, mound 80,000 US military personnel served in South Korea, although not all of them
would've been in the vicinity of the DMZ. The VA contradicts itself regarding who did the
spraying, claiming at one point that it was South Korea but saying at another that the Department
of Defense did it.
In September 2000, the VA quietly sent letters to veterans who served in Korea during the
spraying, letting them know that they may have been dosed with Agent Orange. Since these
letters were sent over 30 years after the exposure, the Pentagon must've just found out about it,
light? Actually, even if you buy the story that the South Koreans were responsible, the US
military knew about the spraying at the time it happened but kept quiet about it for decades. It
was only when news reports began citing declassified documents in 1999 that the government
decided to do something.
Possibly exposed vets can get tested for free by the Veterans Administration. The catch is, if
they're sick with Hodgkin's or some other horrible disease, they — unlike their Vietnam
compatriots — aren't eligible for compensation or additional health care. However, for their
agony, Korean vets will receive a free newsletter, the same one that Vietnam vets get.

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