Greetings and solidarity from Nodutdol for Korean Community Development.
Delivered by Wol-san Liem, November 16, 2005 at the Community Church of New York
Today Nodutdol stands in solidarity with the Vietnamese victims and all victims of Agent Orange. Koreans, tragically, can empathize well with the Vietnamese people. Like Vietnam, Korea knows the devastating consequences of U.S. sponsored war having experience its own from 1950-1953. Some of the most beautiful land of our country is still made deadly by landmines. Our nation remains divided by a heavily fortified barrier that slashes across the peninsula. Our grandparents and parents know first hand the chaos, death and destruction caused by bombing and chemical weapons. And like the Vietnamese people, and especially the victims of Agent Orange, we know the effects of war do not die out with our elders. They continue to haunt our communities, our families and our young ones with physical, mental and emotional wounds.
But it is not only through comparison of the Vietnam and Korean wars that we can sympathize with you. It is also because Korean people and their families are victims of Agent Orange as well. Because of South Korea’s unequal alliance with the U.S over 300,000 Korean young people were sent to fight the war in Vietnam. Of these at least 7000 continue to suffer from exposure to Agent Orange, enduring headaches, memory loss, skin and lung cancer and nervous disorders. What is more, the US army also used toxic defoliants along the DMZ during the 1960s and 70s with as many as 30,000 Korean soldiers, as well as Americans, affected by related illnesses. However Korean veterans, unlike veterans of Vietnam from the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Canada, but like the Vietnamese people, have never been compensated by the U.S. government.
Nodutdol recognizes that the racism of U.S. sponsored war means that peoples of color are often the first to suffer and the last to be noticed. Therefore, we demand that the chemical manufactures, the U.S. government and the U.S. president acknowledge the damage they have done to the Vietnamese land, the Vietnamese people, to all the young men and women sent to fight the governments’ unjust war, and to the children who continue to suffer from the poison to which their parents were exposed. We call on them to make retributions and compensate the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange fully for their suffering. We offer our support as fellow Asian people who, like the people here today, refuse to remain silence in the face of this injustice.