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Major adoption agency fined over Korean man’s ‘abusive’ adoption


Adam Crapser was sent to adoptive parents in the US during the 1970s – a period described as mass ‘child export’ from South Korea


A court in South Korea has ordered the country’s biggest adoption agency to pay £60,000 in damages for mishandling a man’s adoption as a young boy to the United States, where he suffered an abusive childhood.

Adam Crapser, 48, was sent with his sister to adoptive parents in the US in the 1970s, during what has been described as a period of mass “child export” from South Korea.

A Telegraph investigation into the phenomenon found that, between the mid-1950s to the late 1980s, some 200,000 South Korean babies were adopted by families in the US and Europe – many of whom were put up for adoption under false pretences. 

Mr Crasper’s civil case, which began in 2019, is the first in which a South Korean adoptee has attempted to sue the government and a domestic adoption agency over falsified paperwork and shortfalls in the screening process.

The court dismissed the accusations against the government but fined Holt Children’s Service, which was responsible for his adoption in 1979. Holt has not commented publicly on the verdict.

Mr Crapser, born Shin Seong-hyeok, accused the defendants of manipulating his paperwork and employing poor background checks that left him in the hands of two sets of abusive adopters, who did not secure his US citizenship.

The first couple abandoned him after seven years, forcing him into foster care until he was adopted at age 12 by an Oregon couple who would strike and burn their children with heated objects. They were later arrested on charges of physical child abuse, sexual abuse and rape.

As an adult he was deported after run-ins with the police as he did not have US citizenship, which meant he was separated from his then-wife and children and sent back to his birth country where he did not speak the language.

The government and Holt have described his case as unfortunate but denied any legal wrongdoing.

However, the case may embolden other South Korean adoptees to file lawsuits over allegations of past corruption in international adoption cases that has denied them the chance to reconnect with living relatives.

Mr Crapser was among thousands who were described in their paperwork as abandoned orphans, despite having identifiable Korean relatives.  

In December, South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission launched an official inquiry into past international adoption practices amid mounting evidence that many of the babies’ true identities had been withheld, obscured or falsified to supply a lucrative industry of child export.

In the Telegraph’s investigation into the scandal, Kyung Sook Jung, who was adopted to Norway in 1970, said her widowed father never gave permission for her to be sent abroad after she was put into temporary care as a baby when her mother died.  

“My older sister told me that on his deathbed he remembered me and said to her ‘you must find your little sister, you must find Kyung Sook and I want you sisters to be together’,” she said.

2023 May 17