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SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s ruling that two U.S. companies should compensate South Korean veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

On Friday, the Supreme Court said the Seoul High Court should rethink a 2006 decision ordering two U.S. defoliant manufacturers — Dow Chemical and Monsanto — to pay $61 million in damages to almost 7,000 South Korean Vietnam veterans, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Kim Sungwook, general secretary of an association representing South Korean Agent Orange victims, said about 1,000 veterans will protest the court’s ruling next Monday.

Kim said the U.S. firms have already compensated New Zealand and Australian war veterans for damage caused by defoliants during the war. Agent Orange exposure has been linked to a variety of ailments, from birth defects to several types of cancer.

“If the U.S. is truly our ally and friendly nation, they should have considered us,” he said, adding that he’s concerned that some South Korean veterans may become anti-American.

chang.kyong@stripes.com

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