Adoptees of Korea: Alana Heng

Name: Alana Heng (안봉희)
Adopted To: United States
Current Residence: Viginia, United States


Ahn Bong Hee, was the name given to me when I arrived at the Star of the Sea Children’s Home in Incheon, S. Korea in 1962. I recently discovered that my English name was Serena while I was at the orphanage. If my adoption paperwork is accurate, I spent some time with my birth Mom (and maybe Dad) being cared for and loved. Something tragic or a very difficult situation occurred which led a local female civil officer to leave me at the orphanage.

I’m being told I was abandoned at 29th Songrim 2-dong, Dong-gu, lncheon at a bus station, dated October 1962 and my family register states Kyonggi-do, lncheon Dab-dong 3. For the next few years I was cared for by Sister Lee Il Ma. I knew no English, only Korean when I was adopted and taken away in December 1965. According to the permission of Incheon Branch of Seoul Civil & Criminal District Court, on November 1965 my family name was established as Ahn and ancestral place as Kwang Joo on the same date. For the next 15 years, I lived in remote Arkansas; raised by retired American military couple and a sister adopted from Japan (same age; mixed Japan/Sweden—she barely looked Asian and was fortunate to meet your birth Mother in Japan about 10+ years ago).

But I still felt something missing. I was so busy taking care of my family and working after college, I put behind me any idea of searching for my birth parents as I felt it would be impossible with so little to go on. Also, I was always told by my adopted parents that my birth parents died, and no other family existed. I'm sure they didn't want me to attempt any search on my own. I don't recall my adoption experience to be a happy one; meeting basics needs was what I received. Beyond that, there was no attempt to allow me to learn about my heritage nor encourage traveling to Korea. When I lost my baby cuteness and novelty among my parents’ friends, their treatment of me changed, and not for the better. Even though my parents had two older biological sons, which they supported through their college years, my adopted sister and I were not offered to have our college paid for. Financial support stopped when I graduated from high school. I had to work full-time to pay for college, which I was luckily able to complete in four years with help from my husband.

Both of my adoptive parents have since passed away. I was estranged from them for over 20+ years prior to their passing due to the poor relationship I had with them. But this is a long story for another time.

For the past 10+ years my curiosity has become stronger to find whether my birth parents are alive or if I have any relatives. I want my children to discover with me if they have any grandparents and/or relatives. I’ve questioned when and where the scars on my back came from. I’ve wondered about my past medical history. I’ve started down this path now and I am not turning back; whatever the outcome. I’ve visited Korea twice, first in 2006 with my whole family for vacation, and recently in 2015 to specifically seek information from the orphanage and provide DNA to the local Incheon police department. I took another DNA test in May 2016 through FamilyTree DNA, who is working with a program in Korea to provide free DNA tests to halmonies (grandmothers). Through DNA testing, I have found 4th and 5th remote cousins; so, there is a small spark of hope I have closer relatives somewhere.

But I still have so many obstacles to overcome. Since my adoption did not go through the most well-known adoption agencies such as Holt and ESWS, I don’t have a case number. I also emigrated to the US under the custody of the Catholic Committee for Refugees, National Catholic Welfare Conference (hereinafter referred to as the Catholic Committee for Refugees), which no longer exists. I’ve tried to contact the local Catholic agencies, but they were unable to determine where I should seek more information. And lastly, age is against me. I feel I’m running out of time to find any close relatives in Korea.

My last option is seeking help through the local Korean newspapers that promote finding birth parents of Korean adoptees. I’m not too sure how to contact other local Korean media to spread my story since I don’t know the language well, but I am currently trying to learn Korean.

Any support and advice you may offer will be greatly appreciated. I will always be understanding to whatever the reason or circumstances that led me away from my birthplace. I wish to return to my birthplace for peace of mind and heart.

The future is unknown; however, perseverance and patience are what I'm armed with. I'll continue my search through all available options. I'll continue to reach out through social media. I'll participate in trips to Korea within my financial capabilities and hopefully reach my goal in finding close birth relatives.


Written by: Alana Heng (
Edited by: Kara Rickmers

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