A South Korean court Thursday ordered two U.S. chemical companies to pay tens of millions of dollars to a group of South Korean veterans of the Vietnam War to compensate for the effects of the Agent Orange. The herbicide was used to strip away foliage during the conflict.
Thursday's decision marked the first time a South Korean court ruled in favor of victims of Agent Orange, a harmful herbicide widely used during the Vietnam War.
The South Korean High Court ordered the U.S. manufacturers - Dow Chemical and Monsanto - to pay nearly seven thousand veterans and their families between $6,000 to $47,000 each in damages. The court ruled that the companies were at fault because they used more toxic dioxins in making Agent Orange than was standard.
Between 1961 to 1971, the U.S. military sprayed more than 72 million liters of herbicides in Vietnam, much of that Agent Orange, to remove vegetation that provided cover for North Vietnamese forces. The chemical, named after the orange stripes on its container, has been blamed for cancer, birth defects and nervous disorders in those who came in contact with it.
A lawyer for Dow Chemical in Seoul, Park Sang-il, declined to comment on the decision.
"We don't have details of the reasoning of the court," he said. "So we cannot make any comment about the decision yet. But most probably our client will appeal to the Korean Supreme Court."
South Korea sent some 300,000 troops to Vietnam to fight alongside the U.S. military. About 20,000 South Koreans filed lawsuits against the two companies in 1999.
Manufacturers of Agent Orange, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto, paid 180 million dollars in 1984 to a fund for U.S. veterans after a lawsuit.
Since that case, U.S., Vietnamese and South Korean veterans and civilians have continued to sue the companies for compensation. Last year a U.S. court dismissed a case filed by a group of Vietnamese plaintiffs.