' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: A Korean mother asks her son for forgiveness

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Korean mother asks her son for forgiveness

Adam Crapser, American-Korean adoptee but never made a citizen, has been deported to his homeland--where his original mother was waiting for him, according to recent news accounts. “I have so much to tell him, especially how sorry I am,” she said [to the New York Times writer], sitting in her bedroom, which doubles as her kitchen, in her one-floor rural home in Yeongju. “But I am at a loss, because I don’t know English and he can’t speak Korean.”

The she is Kwon Pil-ju who had been desperately trying to teach herself English before her son got there, which would have been last Thursday.

Adam Crasper was one of the estimated 200,000 South Korean children sent out of their home country to be adopted worldwide since the end of the Korean war. He was three when he and his sister were adopted by a family who lived in Michigan. The couple--who treated them terribly--abandoned them six years later, and the siblings were split up. Adam bounced around in foster care before being adopted by a couple in Oregon who, he says, were even worse than the first adoptive parents. They had several adopted and foster children in their home, sometimes as many as ten. Here his nose was broken; he was hit in the back of the head once with a two-by-four; his mouth was shut with duct-tape; his hands were burned. Ultimately those people were convicted of multiple crimes.

But Adam was arrested when he broke into their home to retrieve some of his belongings that came from the orphanage in South Korea. He got into more trouble with the law, and all that came to light when he applied for a Green Card and immigration authorities noticed his criminal record.

By now he was a married father with a daughter and living in Vancouver, Washington. After serving a 60-day sentence that ended in February for domestic abuse, he was arrested by immigration authorities, and held further in detention while his case was adjudicated. The judge who heard his case could have kept him here, but denied that, and so Adam was sent back to detention. At that point he chose deportation and a return to Korea. He won't be able to read the street signs, but he does have his mother waiting for him.

Through a story on television in South Korean, his mother, Kwon Pil-ju, 61, had been found, and DNA proved they were mother and son. In the Seventies, Kwon Pil-ju was poor and single with two children she could not find a way to keep when she took them to a local orphanage. She imagined that if they were adopted, they would have a better life. She left without saying goodbye for fear they would follow her. The boy she left behind was named Shin Song-hyuk.

Kwon Pil-ju later married a man 20 years her senior, had four daughters, and cared for them as well as the man's daughters. Her husband died years ago, her children have moved away, and today she lives with another man who helped raise her daughters. She has a withered leg, and needs crutches or a wheelchair to get around. She told Choe Sang-Hun of The New York Times that she has a small room waiting for her son. Another story said that he landed in Seoul on Thursday.

What was their reunion like? Adam, or Shin Song-hyuk, remembers no Korean; Kwon Pil-ju speaks no English. So their communication will be through a third party, or simple pure emotion, eye to eye, touch to touch. How can he ever understand the reasons for what has to feel like abandonment? Will he accept her sorrow, especially as she is aware of the terrible situation that was his American adoption? How will his daughter fare here in the U.S. growing up? Will she ever see her father again?

All these questions running must go unanswered here, but the sins of this single cruel and unreasonable omission are compounded many times over. No one knows exactly how many Korean adoptees were forced to return to their homeland because they were never formally made citizens of the United States. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 awarded citizenship retroactively to what advocates estimated were more than 100,000 international adoptees under 18 who were already in the country when it went into effect in 2001. 

It is the under 18 clause that is the problem. Adam was 25 in 2001, so the blanket citizenship granted others did not apply to him. There are many unthinkable cruelties that fate foisted upon Korean adoptees, but this administrative glitch is the most thoughtless of all--for a great many of these individuals grew up thinking there were American citizens only to find out later they were not. One even served in the military but was later deported in 2009. Advocates for Korean adoptees say there are at least more than double the five cases that South Korea's government acknowledges. 

Advocates have been trying for three years to amend the law to include those left behind, but it's been stalled in Congress, and with the get-tough immigration policies of the incoming administration of Donald Trump, it is hard to imagine this bill will move forward. In 2013 an amendment which would have closed the loophole was attached to the Senate Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Also known as the Gang of Eight immigration bill, it passed the Senate, but failed in the House of Representatives.

A standalone bill, the Adoptee Citizenship Act, was introduced to the Senate in 2015, but no action was taken. And here we are. I was going to write about remorse, regret and forgiveness today, but as I read more about this particular horror the story captured me. One can only send good thoughts to these two people--mother and son--who have been reunited and are now in the process of trying to find a way to forgiveness and reconciliation. It cannot be easy.

When we read or hear another person say that adopting a child binds you to a family "as if born to," let us remind them of this story. When they say that is the exception, say, yes, this is exceptional, but it represents the difference between the two. One can love someone dearly, one can feel that no greater bond could exist, but no one is "as if born to" because that is impossible. The gulf between "as if" or "born to" is all. --lorraine
Also from FMF
Impressions of the 2016 ASAC Conference: Good Job!
(The Korean story is also told here.)

The "Unknown" Culture Club: Korean Adoptees, Then and Now
Compiled by Janine Myng Ja, Jenette Moon Ja, and Katherine Kim
A collection of vivid,  heart-breaking essays from Korean adoptees of their experiences shared in the effort to inform isolated adoptees that there is a diverse yet unified network of pepole who can identity and understand the ups and downs of adoption. One is the story of Monte Haine, who was deported to South Korea in  2009.
A big thanks for ordering anything through the links to amazon here. 
Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists
The first of the books by the Vance Twins.
As I wrote in the review above, I cannot praise this book enough.
"...a valuable addition to the literature about adoption that portrays it as less than simply a wonderful act that is commemorated with special jewelry. Even the cover art--at first seemingly innocuous--highlights the obvious difference between being raised by your own kind and genetic strangers. The very blonde woman whose image is repeated several times is almost certainly not the original mother of the infant she is holding, an infant with black, spiky hair."


  1. Disgusting that they actually deported him! Shame on the judge and on our government. I really thought something would be done to help him, at the highest levels. What a sad life he has had, and now more sadness, in a strange land where he doesn't even speak the language. It's good that he and his mother are reunited, but not under the circumstances he would prefer. How could they??? This is the absolute worst decision.

    1. i hope that he and his mother can have some peace together. it seems like they are both anxious to meet. i'm happy he at least has someone to go to... imagine if he did not have anyone.

  2. Beyond the pale tactics in baby brokering. I'm heartbroken for this family.

  3. Adam's attorney said Adam was eligible for a deportation reprieve called "cancellation of removal," but the "judge decided he did not deserve this relief."

    Judge John C. O'Dell is the person who should be begging for forgiveness. Not Kwon Pil-ju.

  4. Another party that should be begging for forgiveness is the Korean government which thought it preferable to ship its poor children out of the country rather than helping single moms.

  5. And what about the agencies who broker these kids' fates? The adult kids should (are they?) be allowed to sue them!

    Just awful.


  6. This is without a doubt one of the most unjust, cruel, heartbreaking adoption stories ever. Why hasn't a law been passed to fix this? Certainly nothing will be passed now with deportation of all kinds of people a favorite tactic of our new idiocracy. Agreeing that the judge, the Korean Government and the American Gov are all responsible for this outrage. That poor mother, the guilt she must carry for something that was in no way her fault, and poor Adam and his young family. It makes me cry to think of.But it fits right in with a climate of hate and prejudice and racism being ok.

  7. Well, fixing this is not high on the list of anyone in Congress, otherwise it would have been fixed with the stand-alone bill introduced last year.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.