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JoongAng Daily

With illness in common, former foes join forces
April 10, 2007

A nine-member delegation from Vietnam's Association of Victims of Agent Orange pay homage yesterday to fallen soldiers at the National Cemetery in Seoul, along with around 120 South Korean victims of Agent Orange. [YONHAP]

More than 30 years after having fiercely fought in the Vietnam War,
South Korean and Vietnamese veterans of the Vietnam War stood
together yesterday to demand compensation from U.S. manufacturers of
Agent Orange, which they say has caused them ongoing illnesses.

In front of a 31-meter tower at South Korea's national cemetery, they
burned incense and paid silent tribute to the hundreds of thousands
of war veterans buried here.

The veterans share a bitter past as well as a present agony--what
they claim are the lingering after-effects of the deadly defoliant
sprayed by the U.S. during the war. They are fighting together to
receive compensation from the U.S. makers of Agent Orange.
The victims of the fatal chemical carry a continuing legacy of the
Vietnam War, which ended three decades ago.

More than 4.7 million Vietnamese are said to continue to suffer from
a range of illnesses, including birth defects, cardiovascular
disease, cancer and nervous disorders because of the chemical
defoliant dropped during the war in which South Korea fought
alongside the U.S against communist North Vietnam. South Korean
activists estimate the number of Korean victims of the chemicals at
around 150,000.

South Korea dispatched about 320,000 soldiers to Vietnam to become
the largest foreign contingent of U.S. allies fighting in the war,
with 5,000 killed in action and nearly 11,000 others wounded,
according to official data.

"The past is gone. South Korea and Vietnam are friends and partners
for now and the future," Do Xuan Dien told Yonhap News Agency.
Do led communist forces to victory over the U.S. coalition that aimed
to reunify Vietnam.

The 75-year-old former army major general arrived in Seoul earlier in
the day for a week-long stay in his capacity as vice president of
Vietnam's Association of Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA).

He is heading a nine-member delegation from the association, which
paid homage to the fallen soldiers at the National Cemetery in Seoul,
along with around 120 members of the South Korean group of Agent
Orange victims.

"We are preparing [to file] a lawsuit against the makers of Agent
Orange. So we want to learn from the South Korean group's
experience," the grey-haired Vietnamese man said.

Last year, a South Korean court ordered Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co., two makers of Agent Orange, to pay $62 million in compensation to thousands of South Korean Vietnam war veterans and their families.

Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign | info@vn-agentorange.org | P.O. Box 303, Prince Street, New York, NY 10012-0006