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Court orders Holt to pay W100m to deported US adoptee


By Son Ji-hyoung

A South Korean court on Tuesday ordered adoption agency Holt Children's Services to pay 100 million won ($74,700) to Adam Crapser, who was adopted to a family in the United States in 1979 but deported after four decades.

The Seoul Central District Court acknowledged the agency's "failure to uphold its duty to protect the adoptee and ensure the adoptee's acquisition of citizenship," it said in a ruling.

The landmark ruling is the first in the history of Korea to recognize a legal violation of an international child adoption agency. South Korea was considered the biggest child exporter to the US decades ago.

The court, however, did not hold the Korean government liable for its alleged negligence of duty to protect its citizen.

The lower court ruling came four years after Crapser filed a petition with the court in 2019 against Holt for its neglect in the process that led to Crapser's deportation from the US, and against the Korean government for failure in the supervision of a child adoption agency.

Holt registered Crapser, then known as Shin Song-hyuk, born in 1976, as an orphan along with his elder sister, although their parents were alive and had abandoned them. Shin was adopted to his first US parents in 1979, but he suffered domestic violence and was forced out of the family six years later.

He was later adopted to the second set of parents, Thomas and Dolly Crapser, whose child abuse of him and other adoptees in the family led to the conviction of the parents.

At the age of 16, Crapser was again kicked out of his second family. Growing up, he was found guilty of misdemeanors including burglary and assault, among others, while neither the parents who raised Crapser nor Holt sought US citizenship for him.

Crapser's record of minor crimes led to his deportation in 2016 as he tried to renew his green card in 2014 after getting married and having three kids in the US.

Crapser, who is in international limbo, is in Mexico and did not attend the court verdict in Seoul. Crapser's attorney Kim Su-jung expressed regret over the ruling not recognizing the government's liability.

"This litigation was meant to hold a state and a child adoption agency accountable for a child's rights violation through illegal activities, which leaves a mark after they grow up to be an adult and live in pain," Kim told reporters after the ruling, hinting at an appeal.

The Ministry of Welfare estimated in 2017 that adoptees to the US numbered 111,148 from 1958 to 2012, and it confirmed about 83 percent of them had obtained US citizenship.

2023 May 16