Adam Crapser lives in limbo, a stranger in South Korea, the country of his birth. Forcibly separated from his wife and children in America, he is isolated by language and culture, navigating alone a place he's been expelled to four decades after being sent to adoptive parents in Michigan at age 3, reports the AP. Crapser was abused and abandoned by two sets of adoptive parents in the US then deported in 2016 over criminal convictions because none of his guardians filed citizenship papers for him. "It's a daily struggle to survive," the 43-year-old says, even as he searches for answers about why his life has become defined by displacement. That search has led him to file a landmark lawsuit against South Korea's government and private adoption agency, Holt Children's Services, over what Crapser calls gross negligence regarding the way he and thousands of other children were sent to Western nations without accounting for their future citizenship.
The $177,000 civil suit, expected to be filed Thursday in Seoul, exposes a dark side of South Korean adoptions, which exploded as a business during the 1970s and '80s when many children were carelessly and unnecessarily removed from their families. Military dictatorships pushed the so-called "child export" frenzy that focused on economic growth and reducing the number of mouths to feed. There was no stringent oversight of adoption agencies, which were infamous for aggressive child-gathering activities and fraudulent paperwork. Crapser's case also highlights the shaky legal status of possibly thousands of South Korean adoptees in the US whose parents may have failed to get them citizenship, potentially leaving them vulnerable to deportation. Crapser is one of five adoptees who the Seoul government confirms now live in South Korea after being deported from the US. Activists say the real number is almost certainly larger. (Read much more here.)