Vermont Woman Reunites with Biological Family 44 Years After She Was Lost at a Market and Then Adopted

Forty-four years after being adopted from South Korea by a family in the United States, Denise McCarty has been (virtually) reunited with her birth family — including a twin sister she never knew she had.

McCarty, whose birth name is Sang-Ae, recently discovered her biological family thanks to a Korean DNA program that matches U.S. adoptees with their families. McCarty, 46, signed up for the program in 2016 during a visit to South Korea, according to Korea Now.

Her mother registered with the program the following year, and earlier this month, their DNA was finally matched.

In 1976, McCarty and her twin sister went missing when they were three years old during a trip to a market in Seoul with their grandmother, Vermont news station WCAX reported this week.

Her twin was found three days later. McCarty, however, was taken to an orphanage and then later adopted by her American parents.

“I was told that I was abandoned, so I never knew that I had family,” McCarty said in a video of the emotional October 14 reunion from Korea Now.

“We never abandoned you, Sang-Ae,” McCarty’s sister, Sang-Hee, told her during their meeting, which was done over a video call because of the coronavirus pandemic. “We were looking for you every day.”

In fact, McCarty’s birth family never stopped searching for her, and even opened a business in the market where she went missing in hopes that she would one day return to them, according to Korea Now.

McCarty said she was “very shocked” not only to learn that she had a sibling but a twin.

“To then know that I had a twin sister who looked just like me!” she told WCAX, adding that she and her sister learned that they have many similarities in likes and personality as well.

“To have that missing piece of what happened to me is just incredibly overwhelming and happy and it makes me feel whole,” added McCarty, who hopes to be able to meet her family in person when international travel is safe again.

While McCarty was able to meet her mom, sister, and older brother, her father and grandmother have since died.

McCarty said that she knew her dad was at the reunion “in spirit.”

Speaking to WCAX, she said, “And 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.”

McCarty said that she couldn’t ask for more now that she has found her biological family.

“I’ve just got this huge family now that loves me and that I love,” she said, according to WCAX. “You can’t be happier than that. You can’t ask for more than that.”