Global Ramifications of a South Korean Adoptee’s Lawsuit

When the South Korean Court announced its decision yesterday on Korean adoptee Adam Crapser’s lawsuit against both Holt Children’s Services adoption agency and the South Korean government, it created an incredible precedent in the world of adoption.

The lawsuit alleged that Holt and the South Korean government acted illegally and deceptively in the processing and oversight of Crapser’s adoption.

The court decision is groundbreaking for international adoptees:

  • Holt Children’s Services, a Korean adoption agency, was successfully sued by an adoptee in his country of origin. This is, as far as I know, unprecedented.
  • Holt has been ordered to pay financial damages to the adoptee for illegal acts.
  • The court found Holt responsible to make sure the adoptee had US citizenship, and to report that to South Korea’s Minister of Justice.

Ramifications/Possible Next Steps

I am not a lawyer, but I believe Holt and Crapser can appeal this decision. (The court did not agree with all of Crapser’s allegations.)

This decision could create legal standing for other adoptees to sue Holt Children’s Services, or, I suppose, to sue other adoption agencies.

Rumblings of a class action suit have rolled around the adoption community for years. Perhaps this opens that door.

US citizenship for adoptees was not automatic when Adam was adopted. His criminal record and inability to prove citizenship led to his deportation, despite the adoption having been approved by both Korea and the US. There are said to be thousands of adoptees who entered the US before the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 who do not have citizenship: some know they are not citizens, some don’t know they are not, and some have been deported. At least one deported Korean adoptee, Philip Clay, died by suicide. Many others, in Korea and elsewhere, are struggling.

That a Korean court has held the adoption agency responsible for the adoptee’s acquisition of citizenship in the adoptive country could have huge ramifications for deported adoptees and those without citizenship. I imagine both the US and countries of origin/sending countries are looking at this decision closely.

Crapser’s lawsuit also made allegations against the South Korean government, and the court apparently did not agree to those. More information about this is expected soon.

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