Thursday, August 18, 2011

Benedictine Monks Protesting with Area Residents

Some months ago, the burial of  Agent Orange containers in a US military  base  here in Korea was brought  to the attention of the Koreans.  From the time of hearing the news reports the residents around Camp Carroll, an American military camp in the southeast of Korea, have  been living with anxiety.

The Catholic Times has reported that the Benedictine monks at Waegwan Monastery, located close to Camp Carol, sent a letter of protest to the Environment and Labor Committee of the Government. Former U.S. servicemen  said they buried the toxic chemicals in 1978. However, an American and Korean team of investigators announced they had found no traces of Agent Orange. The American military now admits that barrels of toxic material were buried at Camp Carroll, but were later dug up and removed.

Letters of protest from residents of the area make clear that they are not  relieved by the report of the joint investigation team, which satisfied neither the residents nor the monks, especially when the Catholic Times reported that the American servicemen  have said that the place where they buried the containers was near a helicopter landing area, and the investigating team did not go to that area. The residents also want the SOFA (status of forces agreement)  amended to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

In recent years there has  been a lack of trust in the way the American military has conducted itself in Korea. It is not only the residents of Waegwan that the the monks are concerned about;  news reports indicate that many of the other American military bases have underground water pollution much higher than government standards allow. To deal with all these revelations and the anxiety of the residents, the monks are asking the government to begin an independent investigation that will be transparent and put to rest the worries of the residents.