The Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea (RoK) has upheld a ruling ordering two US Agent Orange makers to pay compensation to 39 Korean war veterans who fought during the US war in Vietnam.

The court for the first time ever recognised the correlation between the toxic defoliant and certain skin diseases. It said Dow Chemical and Monsanto should pay 466 million won (415,000 USD) to the victims, who said exposure to dioxin contained in AO was the cause of their skin diseases.

At the same time, the RoK court reversed an appeal court verdict that demanded the two US companies to pay compensation to thousands of other veterans who claimed to suffer from diseases as a result of their exposure to AO in Vietnam. It sent back the verdict to the appeal court for further review.

The RoK sent its troops to fight alongside the US and southern Vietnamese forces during the US war in Vietnam.

From 1961-1971, US troops sprayed more than 80 million litres of herbicides - 44 million litres of which were AO that contained nearly 370kg of dioxin - over southern Vietnam.

As a result, around 3.5–4 million Vietnamese people were exposed to AO/dioxin. Many of the victims have died, while millions of their descendants are living with deformities and diseases due to the effects of AO.

While the US is financing a dioxin decontamination project at Da Nang airport, one of its former bases in central Vietnam, it still refuses to recognise the fact that dioxin contained in AO causes cancer and birth defects in AO victims and their descendants.-VNA