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International Conference of Victims of Agent Orange
Hanoi, Vietnam
March 28-29, 2006

Damages and Measures of Vietnam War veterans because of Agent Orange (booklet)

Excerpt
Progress of the Lawsuit
(pp. 24-31)

by
Agent Orange-Connected Disabled Veterans of Vietnam War of Korea

Ruling in the Korean Agent Orange Lawsuit

The Korean Army participated in the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1973 and many soldiers were suffering from dioxin poisoning which occurred after the war in relation to Agent Orange sprinkled on them during the war. As the fact became known that American soldiers and veterans who participated in the Vietnam War brought a suit for compensation for damage related to Agent Orange from 1984 to 1988, Korean Vietnam veterans claimed damages against the Korean government through demonstration for compensation for the damage. As a result, the Korean government enacted the Act on Assistance of Agent Orange Patients on March 27, 1993 and began to grant a pension according to the degree of damage, giving the veterans medical treatment, the establishment of the Agent Orange-Connected Disabled Veterans of Vietnam War of Korean progressed a business of recovering the honor and welfare of the members, and made a plan for bringing an action for claiming Agent Orange related damages against the American government.

Knowing on May 1999 that the Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto were conducting production and business activities in Korea as multi-national enterprises, Agent Orange-Connected Disabled Veterans of Vietnam War of Korea filed an application for provisional seizure of 132 kinds of patents owned by these two companies with Seoul District Court and applied to the same court for provisional execution of the patents upon receipt of a notice of decision of provisional seizure on August 1999, but the application was dismissed.

On September 30, 1999, Agent Orange-Connected Disabled Veterans of Vietnam War of Korea laid a suite for compensation (US $500,000.-/person) for Agent Orange related damage before Seoul District Court against the Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto and other 6 companies, and organized the counsel comprised of Baek Yong-yeob attorney and other 102 attorneys. The number of the first participants of the suit was 17,141 (3,473 patients of chlorine acne and other 11 diseases and 13,652 patients of light-sensitive dermatitis and other 22 diseases / 16 second-generation patients) and Kim Hui-tae, chief judge of the 13th Civil Affairs Division, Seoul District Court, was appointed as judge in charge of the case and began to hear the case.

  • March 24, 2000. The case was heard at Seoul District Court (Kim Hui-tae, chief judge of the 13th Civil Affairs Division)
  • July 23, 2000. The case was heard at Seoul District Court (Kim Hui-tae, chief judge of the 13th Civil Affairs Division)
  • May 28, 2001. The case was heard at Seoul District Court (Kim Hui-tae, chief judge of the 13th Civil Affairs Division)
  • July 19, 2001. The case was heard at Seoul District Court (Kim Hui-tae, chief judge of the 13th Civil Affairs Division)
  • October 19, 2001. The case was heard at Seoul District Court (Kim Hui-tae, chief judge of the 13th Civil Affairs Division)
  • February 17, 2001. The proceedings terminted at Seoul District Court.
  • May 23, 2002. After conclusion of nine (9) preparatory pleadings and six (6) oral proceedings related to a suit of Agent Orange against the U.S. government, the 13th Civil Affairs Division (Chief Judge Kim Hui-tae) and dismissed the suit for reason that ground for casual relation between Agent Orange and the diseases was insufficient and that the extinctive prescription of the occurrence of Agent Orange damage should apply, resulting in the case being decidd against the plaintiffs.
  • June 15, 2002. Appealed to Seoul High Court (17,141 persons).
  • December 20, 2002. In the preparation process for an appeal trial related to Agent Orange suit against America, the presiding chief Lee Won-o, the 13th Civil Affairs Division, Seoul High Court, in a trial for lawsuit restructuring, decided to try the case with the intention of granting an opportunity to go on an appeal trial to only the persons who want to.
  • May 23, 2003. The bill for lawsuit restructuring for an appeal trial submitted to Supreme Court of Korea, according to the appeal related to Agent Orange suit, to the effect that the above decision was in violation of the principle of equality was approved and the Supreme Court of Korea, as requested by plaintiffs, accepted the appeal trial adjustment request and granted an opportunity to go on an appeal trial to all the 17,141 persons who participated in the first instance.
  • June 14, 2004 at 14:00. The third hearing was conducted in the appeal trial at the 13th Civil Affairs Division (Chief Judge Choi Byeong-deok), Seoul High Court.
  • December 9, 2004. In relation to the suit for compensation for Agent Orange damage against America, by arbitration of the 13th Civil Affairs Division (Chief Judge Choi Byeong-deok), Seoul High Court, 4 representatives of this Association, attorney-at-law Beak Young-heob, and 4 defense lawyers met to make a compromise at Room 1906-1 (Civil Affairs Mediation Room) of the Seoul High Court, but failed to reach an agreement. Then the court announced that the trial would continue and that the court would decide the date for trial.
  • December 13, 2005. Oral proceedings for the appeal trial was conducted at Room 309 of the Seoul High Court, the 13th Civil Affairs Division (Chief Judge Choi Byeong-deok).
  • December 27, 2005. Description of report of the appeal trial at the 13th Civil Affairs Division of the Seoul High Court.
  • January 26, 2006. The final judgment of the appeal trial.

Excluding periphery disease and burger's disease among all the diseases from which the entire plaintiffs were suffering, 11 dieases:

  1. Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma,
  2. Porphyria cutanea tarda,
  3. soft dissue sarcoma,
  4. Chloracne,
  5. Hodgkin's Lymphoma,
  6. Lung Cancer,
  7. Larynx Cancer,
  8. Bronchus Cancer,
  9. Multiple myeloma,
  10. Prostate Cancer, and
  11. Type 2 Diabetes

were approved, 6,795 persons among the plaintiffs won the lawsuit, who, the judge decided, would be paid differently according to the degrees of damages from minimum six thousand dollars (US $6,000) to the maximum of forty-six thousand dollars (US $46,000).

In addition, the judge dismissed the request related to the remaining diseases including that of the second-generation peripheral neuropathy patients on the ground that the evidence is in short.

This judgment is considered to indicate that the manufacturers should be responsible for product liability and failure to perform the obligation of notifying such product to the user, instead of a problem of casual relation of Agent Orange and extinctive prescription.

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