Joint Investigation Team briefs officials, residents
Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson addresses residents at the Chilgok County Auditorium June 9. He is leading the Joint Investigation Team together with Doctor Gon Ok (right).

CAMP CARROLL, South Korea - Led by an American Army general and a South Korean scientist, the Joint Investigation Team met with South Korean officials, legislators and residents here June 9 and answered question on the probe into claims that Agent Orange was buried here in 1978.

Eighth Army Commander Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson and Doctor Gon Ok met with the provincial governor, county governor and ROK National Assembly members from the Public Administration and Security Committee at the alleged burial site on Camp Carroll. The U.S. Army and ROK leaders also attended a town hall meeting with local officials and residents off post at the Chilgok County Auditorium.

"I pledge that I will do everything necessary to determine the truth,” Johnson told the residents at the town hall meeting. “My focus is to ensure there is no risk to the health of the people on Camp Carroll or off Camp Carroll. And if there is, I’ll fix it.”

South Korean Doctor Gon Ok, the chief South Korean investigator on the Joint Investigation Team, said the investigation is proceeding methodically.

“We have a trustworthy, reliable method that has been agreed upon by both sides,” said Ok, an environmental expert and chief professor at Pokyong National University.

Following a comprehensive records review and interviews with the U.S. veterans that first made the claims on KPHO TV in Phoenix, the Joint Investigation Team is using ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity and magnetometers to detect buried material, and conducting joint water and soil sampling tests to detect any contamination by Agent Orange.

Ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity and magnetometers are used for environmental, archaeological and engineering exploration.

“Our plan is to try to pinpoint potentially contaminated areas with ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity, magnetometers and water and soil sampling,” said Johnson. “The results of that testing will determine where to dig, if we find contamination.”

The general emphasized the need for patience as the investigation continues into the more than 30-year-old claims.

“I believe in every step we have to build on the trust that we’ve had here for over 60 years,” said Johnson. “We want to make sure we get this right.”

In an earlier meeting, North Kyongsong Province Governor Kim Kwan-yong said he appreciated the speed of the investigation.

The general said the ROK-U.S. Joint Investigation Team will conduct the testing necessary to determine if Agent Orange was buried on Camp Carroll.

The Eighth Army commander also reiterated his commitment to conducting a complete investigation and said he shares the concerns of the local residents.

“We regret the concern these allegations have caused our Korean neighbors,” said Johnson. “We truly value their friendship and are committed to cooperating fully with the Korean government during this investigation. We owe it to them to ensure our investigation is deliberate, thorough and transparent.”

Johnson vowed to return to Chilgok County to announce the results of the investigation at another town hall meeting.

Closing the town hall meeting on an optimistic note, Johnson said the ROK-U.S. Alliance had overcome much tougher challenges in the same area during the decisive Battle of the Pusan Perimeter here more than 60 years ago.

“We are on sacred ground here on the Nakdong River,” said Johnson. “If we can stand side-by-side and solve that problem, then we can stand side-by-side and solve this problem.”

Page last updated Sun June 12th, 2011 at 23:27