updated 1/26/2006 5:50:18 AM ET 2006-01-26T10:50:18

A South Korean court on Thursday ordered two U.S. manufacturers of the defoliant Agent Orange to pay $62 million in medical compensation to South Korean veterans of the Vietnam War and their families.

The Seoul High Court ordered Dow Chemical in Midland, Mich., and Monsanto Company in St. Louis to pay the compensation to about 6,800 people. It was the first time a South Korean court has ruled in favor of victims of Agent Orange.

“It is acknowledged ... the defendants failed to ensure safety as the defoliants manufactured by the defendants had higher levels of dioxins than standard,” the court said in its ruling.

South Koreans made up the largest foreign contingent of U.S. allies fighting in Vietnam, contributing some 320,000 troops. South Korea lost 5,077 soldiers and suffered 10,962 wounded.

South Koreans, Vietnamese and many U.S. veterans blame a variety of illnesses on exposure to Agent Orange, including miscarriages, birth defects, cancers and nervous disorders.

Official U.S. records show the U.S. military sprayed 19 million gallons of herbicide over southern Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 to destroy jungle cover for communist troops. About 55 percent of that was Agent Orange.

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