Landing in an O.C. Court, This IOU Was Red All Over

Times Staff Writer

A bloody dispute is underway in Orange County Superior Court.

It centers on a promise -- written in blood -- by a Korean businessman to pay back $170,000 to an investor.

“Please forgive me. Because of my deeds, you have suffered financially,” Stephen Son wrote in Korean. “I will pay you back to the best of my ability.”

Jinsoo Kim filed suit in January alleging that he never received the money promised him for investing in a children’s clothing company.


This month, Judge Corey S. Cramin ruled that the case could go forward.

Although a blood contract carries no additional legal weight, Kim’s attorney, Richard J. Radcliffe, is trying to use the once-crimson ink to boost his client’s case.

The defendant took the effort “to solemnify his promise in blood, which seems to be communicating an intent more serious than one expressed in pen,” Radcliffe said in an interview. “So it’s ironic that he is not abiding by his commitment.”

Son’s attorney, Vladimir Khiterer, said the promise didn’t mention a repayment deadline. He added that the contract was drawn in a bar when the two men were drunk, and Kim demanded the promise in blood.

Radcliffe said the scene in the bar never occurred.

Both lawyers in the case say the blood promise stems from Korean culture.

“I don’t think so,” said Kyeyoung Park, a UCLA anthropology professor, with a laugh. “Even in the past, a blood contract was pretty rare” in Korea.

Though blood oaths have been taken by mobsters, teen lovers and others, examples are elusive.


That’s “a new one for me,” said Michael Asimow, UCLA law professor who specializes in contracts. “I’ve never heard of a promise made in blood.”