By Anne Szmul,
Domestic News Writer
What are the chances of meeting a long-lost sibling after 40 years halfway around the world? For Holly Hoyle O’Brien and Meagan Hughes, multiple coincidences leading ultimately to a DNA test defied the odds and landed them in this situation.
According to Time magazine, the women were born in South Korea and were separated in the 1970s when their mother took Eun-Sook (now known as Meaghan Hughes), leaving her half-sister Pok-nam Shin (O’Brien) with their alcoholic father.
O’Brien was placed in an orphanage upon her father’s death and was adopted in 1978. Her new family was located in Virginia. Hughes was adopted two years previously by and American family who took her to New York state.
Hughes, then 46, and O’Brien became friends when they were hired three months apart by the same hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Upon receiving the positive results of the DNA test, Hughes was understandably moved, recalling to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “I was in shock, I was numb. I have a sister”.
Stranger things have happened. Twins Anais Bordier and Samantha Futerman discovered each other in December 2012 when Bordier, adopted and raised by a family in France, thought someone had uploaded a video of herself on YouTube. It turned out to be a video starring an United States- based YouTuber and actress named Samantha. Reaching out, they discovered that they were both adopted and were born in Busan, South Korea on the same day in 1987.
Two years later, the twins, now 27, have published a book titled Separated @ Birth: A True Love Story of Twin Sisters Reunited. The book details how the two connected after the video debacle and then connected through Facebook, reuniting after being separated in a South Korean orphanage.
Adoption from South Korea, as in the coincidental incidences previously explored, has been common since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The influx of orphans as a product of the war, both fully Korean as well as mix of GI and locals, became the focus of many religious organizations in Europe as well as the United States. Societal taboo placed on adoption of children not carrying the same lineage as the family made it difficult for older children—who would be more difficult to pass off as one’s own child—as well as infants to get adopted.
Popularity of adoption in the West and demand among the infertile couples in the upper and middle classes allows less pressure to be placed on the government to provide for all these children. Coupled with a shortage of “domestic” adoptable children due in part to contraception and abortion, making a family often requires the crossing of oceans.
Internally, South Korea is equipped to provide for expecting mothers. Several agencies are set up to provide prenatal care for expecting mothers as well as monthly pay to care for the babies after birth. If the mother gives up the child, arrangements are made through an agency with the expecting family.
All in all, The Progressive’s Matthew Rothschild estimated in an article published in 1988 that adoptees earn the country $15 to $20 million per year. Even as numbers of adoptions decrease, the value of currency still lends itself to ensuring the continued existence of a sort of industry abroad, as well as Lindsey Lohan-esque Parent Trap reunion stories.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 20th print edition.
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