Korean Supreme Court Reverses and Remands Agent Orange Judgment


The Supreme Court of Korea has eliminated previous monetary awards and instructed a lower court to reconsider its decision that Dow Chemical and the former Monsanto Company as chemical suppliers to the U.S. government in the 1960s are liable for claims by Korean Vietnam War veterans. The lower court decision was contrary to established legal principles and U.S. precedent involving claims by Vietnam veterans.

“Our employees have great respect for the Korean, U.S. and other allied soldiers sent to any war including those in service in the Vietnam War,” said David F. Snively, Monsanto Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “It is the role of the U.S. government and the Republic of Korea to resolve any issues arising from wartime activities and both nations have implemented measures to provide support for their veterans.”

Agent Orange was a military herbicide used from 1961 to 1971 to defoliate vegetation in the Vietnamese jungles and saved the lives of allied soldiers. Nine chemical companies manufactured Agent Orange for the U.S. government. The U.S government specified the chemical composition of Agent Orange and when, where and how the material was used in Vietnam. Agent Orange received its name because of the orange band around containers of the material.

In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand lower court rulings that the companies were not responsible for the implications of military use of Agent Orange because the war materials were supplied at the direction of the U.S. government.

In 1999, Korean veterans sued Dow and Monsanto in the Seoul Central District Court, a trial court. That court found in favor of Monsanto and Dow in 2002. An appellate court, the Seoul High Court, overturned the decision in 2006, ruling in favor of approximately 6,795 Korean veterans of the Vietnam War.

The Korean ruling does not impact prior U.S. claims which were settled long ago or U.S. court decisions extinguishing all claims because the manufacturers were government contractors carrying out the instructions of government.

In 2002, Monsanto Company was incorporated as an independent, public company focused solely on seeds and agricultural products. The manufacture of Agent Orange by a former company of the same name occurred over 40 years ago.

More background about Agent Orange and the former Monsanto can be found by clicking here.