Orphaned Korean sisters reunited by chance in Florida after 40 years

Holly Hoyle O'Brien (left) and Meagan Hughes reunited in Florida.
Holly Hoyle O'Brien (left) and Meagan Hughes reunited in Florida. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

SARASOTA, Florida (REUTERS) - Two orphaned South Korean sisters were recently reunited by chance in Florida after they were hired by the same hospital 40 years after their adoptions by different sets of American parents, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

Ms Holly Hoyle O'Brien, 46, and her half-sister Ms Meagan Hughes, 44, were orphaned in their native Pusan, South Korea, in the mid-1970s when their father, an alcoholic, was hit by a train, the sisters told the paper. Neither can recall their mothers.

Ms Hughes, whose birth name is Eun-Sook Shin, was adopted first in 1976 and grew up in Kingston, New York, the paper reported on Saturday.

Ms O'Brien, or Pok-nam Shin, was adopted two years later and went to live barely 480km away in Alexandria, Virginia. She contacted the orphanage in South Korea years later but could find no records of Eun-Sook, the paper said.

They reunited this year after both were hired just months apart at Sarasota's Doctors Hospital. Ms Hughes had been living in the area since 1981 after her family moved there. Ms O'Brien arrived in Sarasota in 2005.

The hospital said that the sisters were not immediately available on Monday for comment.

"We are thrilled to have Holly and Meagan as members of our healthcare family, and we look forward to continuing to support them as they reconnect after so many decades apart," said Doctors Hospital chief executive officer Robert Meade.

They met at work and quickly discovered they had unusual similarities, the sisters said in a video interview posted on the paper's website. A DNA test came back positive Aug. 17.

"I knew in the back of my mind she's somewhere out there and I never gave up on her," Ms O'Brien said in the video before breaking down in tears.

Their story, however rare, is not without precedent.

In July, the New York Times reported the case of two pairs of Colombian identical twins who were mixed up at birth due to a hospital error and raised by separate families as fraternal twins, only to be reunited at age 24 after friends spotted the uncanny resemblance.

In 2013, two Florida-born women adopted by different parents discovered each other in a writing class at Columbia University, according to media reports.

The Shin sisters say they never imagined working in the same profession, let alone the same hospital.

"But I'm glad I joined in this field instead of something else," Ms O'Brien said.