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Almost 10% of Korean adoptees may be stateless

In March, the life of Adam Crapser, a Korean adoptee who was facing deportation after his adoptive parents never filed for his American citizenship, made headlines worldwide. As the 40-year-old automatically lost his South Korean citizenship when he left the country at the age of four to be adopted, Crapser has always been effectively stateless.

Newly released South Korean government data showed that almost 10 percent of 166,138 registered Korean adoptees who left the country since the 1950s may be in Crapser’s shoes. According to the report published by Rep. Nam In-soon of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, some 15,592 Koreans adopted by foreign nationals may be stateless, a vast majority of them estimated to be living in the U.S.

The individuals account for 9.3 percent of all Korean adoptees, according to the report.

According to the lawmaker, most nations in Europe and Australia have been granting automatic citizenship to foreign-born children who arrived in their countries through international adoption. However, this was not the case in the U.S. until 2001.

Prior to 2001, children were required to enter the country on foreign-born adoption visas, sponsored by adoption agencies. Once the adoption visa expires after six months, it was the adoptive parents’ responsibility to file for their children’s American citizenship. Lawmaker Nam said most of the 15,592 Korean adoptees who may be stateless are estimated to be those living in the U.S., who have never been formally naturalized in the country as their adoptive parents did not apply for their citizenship.

Of the 166,138 Korean children -- local NGOs estimate that the actual number is 200,000 -- who were sent abroad for international adoption since the 1950s, some 100,000 were adopted to the U.S.

In 2000, lawmakers in the U.S. made citizenship automatic for international adoptees. But the law, which took effect in February 2001, excluded adoptees 19 or older at the time. Many, including Crapser (he was already 26 in 2001), did not meet the criteria and fell in a legal loophole.

Rep. Nam said the Ministry of Health and Welfare almost made no efforts to tackle the issue, although it had said back in 2012 that it will collaborate with the U.S. government to seek ways to support those in need of citizenship.

“The Korean government needs to do more to tackle this issue,” she said.

Meanwhile, Crapser’s next hearing is scheduled on Oct. 20 at the federal building in Portland, the U.S. He is currently subject to the U.S. federal immigration law that makes non-citizens with criminal records face deportation.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com



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