SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Almost 1,900 South Koreans have registered as Agent Orange victims, saying they were sickened by the toxic chemical sprayed along the border with North Korea 30 years ago, a veterans’ group said Wednesday.
Following news reports in December, the U.S. and South Korean governments acknowledged that Agent Orange and two other defoliants were used along the border with North Korea in 1968-69.
A veterans’ group said 1,890 former South Korean soldiers and farmers have registered as victims, including 150 disfigured children born to the former soldiers and border-town farmers.
The group, called the Association of Vietnam War Veterans Suffering from Exposure to Agent Orange, was formed to represent Korean Agent Orange victims in the Vietnam War. About 320,000 South Koreans fought in the Vietnam War.
The association is waging a legal battle to seek $4.3 billion from two U.S. Agent Orange manufacturers, Dow Chemical and Monsanto, and $1 billion from the U.S. government.
Association officials say the victims of the border spraying will form a separate group to battle for compensation.
Twenty of them filed a lawsuit in Philadelphia in December, demanding compensation from seven U.S. chemical companies, including Dow, Monsanto and Uniroyal.
The plaintiffs are either civilians or soldiers who say they sprayed the defoliants with bare hands and no masks along the border. They said they and their family have suffered from cancer, deformities and birth defects.
South Korean officials have said 59,000 gallons of Agent Orange and two other defoliants were spread along the border to kill foliage that was providing cover for North Korean infiltrators. At least 50,000 South Korean soldiers were involved in manual spraying, they said.
Agent Orange contains dioxin, which is believed to cause cancer, deformities and birth defects.
The U.S. government has disavowed any legal responsibility, saying the use of the chemicals was South Korea’s decision. South Korea provides medical care, help finding jobs and other subsidies to Agent Orange victims.