Denise McCarty, 46, and her twin sister went missing 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 – wasn’t.
Denise was taken to an orphanage. On Christmas Eve in 1976, she was adopted by her American parents. They were told that the little girl had been abandoned at the hospital because she was sick.
According to 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 program that she was finally able to discover who her biological family was.
Denise’s mother had registered with the exact same program in 2015, and a DNA match was made earlier this month.
Last October 14, Denise was able to talk to her biological family via video conference call, a call that included the long-lost twin sister she never knew she had.
“My heart was beating a hundred miles an hour. Like, I could not believe this was happening,” Denise told WCAX 3.
Denise’s family had never given up hope of finding her and had even opened a business in the market where she went missing in the hope that they would see her again one day.
“We never abandoned you, Sang-Ae. We were looking for you every day,” her twin Sang-Her told her during the emotional reunion.
The 46-year-old 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 colors, and a passion for travel.
Denise’s birth mother said 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.
Unfortunately, Denise’s grandmother and father have since died, and she discovered her father had begun to drink heavily after her disappearance, dying of liver disease 20 years ago.
“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,” Denise told WCAX 3.
Moving forward, Denise intends to spend the rest of her life bonding with her biological family and plans to introduce them to her adoptive parents. After the pandemic ends, she hopes to travel to South Korea to reconnect with them personally.