Two orphaned sisters separated decades ago in South Korea have been reunited after being hired at the same hospital in Florida. The women, now both in their 40s, were stunned to learn that they were related, having not seen each other since the early 1970s.
Both women had suffered tragic losses and spent time at orphanages in South Korea before being adopted by American families.
As a very young child, Eun-Sook – now known as Meagan Hughes – had been taken from her alcoholic father by her mother. But the woman left Hughes’ half sister, Pok-nam Shin, known as Holly Hoyle O’Brien, who was two years older, in the care of the father.
When the father died, O’Brien, then aged five, ended up in an orphanage in Pusan, 200 miles (335km) south of the capital, Seoul. In 1978, aged nine, she was adopted by an American couple who gave her the new name and took her to be part of their family in the state of Virginia.
Her half sister, Hughes, also has memories of a Korean orphanage but recalls little of her biological mother or what happened to her. In 1976 she was also adopted by an American family, growing up in New York state, about 300 miles (480km) from her sister.
Earlier this year, O’Brien was hired at a hospital in Sarasota, Florida, working as a nursing assistant on the fourth floor. Three months later, Hughes was hired to work on the same floor.
The two women worked the same 7am-7.30pm shift and struck up a friendship quickly.
The coincidences began stacking up. Both had “abandonment” listed on their orphanage paperwork and both had been adopted by American families.
O’Brien told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “I was like, this is too good to be true. I said we’ve got to do the DNA test, it’s the only way we’ll get the truth out of the whole thing.”
She ordered DNA kits from Canada and the women did mouth swabs, which were sent back to Canada in early August.
The match was positive.
“I’m like, this can’t be,” O’Brien told the paper. “I was trembling, I was so excited. I was ecstatic.”
Her half sister was just as surprised: “When I heard from Holly, my first reaction was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I was in shock, I was numb. I have a sister,” Hughes said.