Opening a Pandora’s Box: Taking a DNA Test


Not too long ago, I wrote about my decision to take a DNA test as a Korean adoptee. This was a very personal choice that took me a few years to comfortably make. For various reasons, I resisted the desire to learn more about where I came from for as one fellow adoptee said to me regarding us adoptees’ personal resolutions to do anything related to unearthing more information about ourselves and our pasts, such a step can be scary, because once you open that Pandora’s box, you cannot control what comes out. 

But I felt good about my decision to take this next step at this point in my life, and it was made even more special by the fact that I took my DNA test in Seoul, Korea, the city and country I was (supposedly) born in. (It is worth noting that it was not necessary for me to do the testing in Korea—I could have done it from my home in Washington, DC with resources provided by any of the adoptee organizations in Seoul, but as with many things during my recent visit, the stars aligned just so, making it possible and convenient for me to take this test in Korea).

Taking the test was both a monumental and uneventful experience. I was given two swabs and instructed to scrape the inside of each cheek for 30 seconds. A volunteer at the organization administering the test then packaged the samples just so and will ship them off to a lab in Houston, Texas where they will be processed. I can expect to receive my results by email within 1-2 months and after that, it is up to me as to whether or not I wish to upload them into any of the many databases tracking adoptee DNA for the purpose of finding family member matches. For what it’s worth, I think I’m ready to do that, although my expectations of finding any relatives are quite low—and for now, I’m okay with that possibility.

As of the writing of this blog post, I have not informed my adoptive parents of the test I took in Korea, although I intend to do so. I tried to FaceTime with my (adoptive) father in the United States from Korea the day before I was to submit a DNA sample, but I could not connect, and now that I am home from my travels, I tried calling my mother, but again, no luck in catching either of them. I’m confident, however, that both will be understanding, supportive, and equally fascinated by the process as much as I am, although I do admit that it may come as a surprise to both, especially after years of indifference on my end regarding the desire to learn anything about my biological past. But time changes us all. And in this case, it certainly has changed me.

So for now, it’s a waiting game, but do watch this space for once the results come in, I’ll provide a brief update of the findings and my reaction to viewing them for the first time. While I’m not sure what to expect with regard to finding a biological match, if anything, I’ll be happy to have the closest thing possible to a family medical history. As an adoptee who knows nothing about her past, for that, I will be grateful.

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