MARIN COUNTY (KPIX) – A Marin County woman who was adopted from South Korea was shocked when her DNA test revealed she has a brother living in Oregon.
Renee Alanko took the test to find out about her health. Instead, she got the surprise of a lifetime. So, she decided to meet him.
Alanko’s heart raced as she made her way through Portland International Airport.
“We’re on our way, I’m nervous, I feel like I have a lot of adrenaline pumping inside of me,” said the 35-year-old, walking fast.
Turns out her biological brother Justin Kragt lives in Salem.
“I had no idea I had a sister, I had no clue,” said Kragt.
He and his older sister were born in South Korea. They were abandoned by their parents in different locations when Alanko was about 4, and Kragt was just a year old.
“I was told that I was found in a theater which was next to a police station which was actually fairly common in the early 80’s in South Korea when there was a lot of poverty,” said Kragt.
Both children were adopted to families in the U.S. Neither knew about the other.
Decades later, to try and learn about her health history, Alanko did a DNA test through 23andme.
“And right there it said ‘parents,’ and it said ‘me,’ and then it said ‘Justin, 35, Salem, Oregon,’ and it said ‘23andme predicts this is your brother,’ and I was looking at it like what?”
Alanko got up her courage and contacted Kragt through Facebook.
Brother and sister began sharing details of their lives by email and phone. Then came the big day.
They met in Portland on September 15, Kragt’s birthday.
“It’s the best birthday present I ever got,” said Kragt.
After decades apart, they hugged for the first time. During this special moment, later said they felt like they knew each other.
“This blindsided me but it’s changing my life for the better,” said Kragt. “I’m very, very much overjoyed with her presence and the relationship we’re going to continue to build.”
Kragt plans to visit his sister in the Bay Area in November.