Canadian Woman Reunited With South Korean Biological Family After Going Missing When She Was 3 Years Old

by : Julia Banim on : 29 Oct 2020 15:35
Canadian Woman Reunited With South Korean Biological Family After Going Missing When She Was 3 Years OldKorea Now

A Vermont resident who was adopted from South Korea has reunited with her birth family for the first time in 44 years, linking up virtually from their respective homes.

Denise McCarty, 46, and her twin sister went missing as toddlers during a trip to a Seoul market with their grandmother. Her sister, Sang-Hee, was discovered three days later, but Denise – whose birth name is Sang-Ae – was not.


Instead, Denise was taken to an orphanage two hours away, and on Christmas Eve 1976 was adopted by her American parents. They were told that the little girl had been abandoned at the hospital because she was sick.

You can watch the joyous reunion for yourself below:

As reported by Korea Now, Denise signed up with a Korean DNA program that tracks down the families of US adoptees during a 2016 trip to South Korea, and it was through this that she was finally able to discover who her biological family was.


Denise’s mother had registered with the exact same program the year before, and a DNA match was made earlier this month.

On October 14, Denise was able to speak with her biological family on a video conference call, a call that included the long-lost twin sister she never knew she had.

Denise told WCAX 3:

My heart was beating a hundred miles an hour. Like, I could not believe this was happening.

Missing childKorea Now

It emerged that her family had never given up hope of finding her, and had even opened a business in the market where she had vanished in the hope that they would one day see her again.

During the emotional reunion, her twin Sang-Hee told her:

We never abandoned you, Sang-Ae. We were looking for you every day.


Denise was delighted by the similarities between herself and Sang-hee. Their likeness went way beyond physical appearance, with the sisters sharing similar tastes in food and colours, and a passion for travel.

Denise’s birth mother told her that she’d never left the village where she had disappeared, and that she had kept a copy of the leaflets she had distributed in the hopes of tracking her down.

Missing childKorea Now

Sadly, Denise’s grandmother and father have since died, and she discovered her father had begun to drink heavily following her disappearance, dying of liver disease 20 years ago.


Denise told WCAX 3:

We had the reunion and I know he was there in spirit, because I think that he just made this happen, and I think that my maternal grandmother that lost us that day… I know she was there as well. I could just tell.

Going forward, Denise intends to spend the rest of her life bonding with her biological family, and plans to introduce them to her adoptive parents. Once the pandemic ends, she hopes to travel to South Korea to reconnect with them in person.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Life, Adoption, Canada, Korea, missing, Now, Reunion, South Korea, United States


Yonhap News Agency and 1 other
  1. Yonhap News Agency

    Korean adoptee in U.S. finds her long lost birth family after 44 years

  2. WCAX 3

    Vermont woman reunites with birth family 44 years after going missing