Three-year-old Sofie recorded a tape in 1977 - now it reveals a lifelong fraud

2 August 2023

Two Danes from Thy thought they knew who they were, but some words on an old cassette tape changed everything.

The cassette tape was hidden for decades in a box in Thy.

It's a Sony tape with space for 45 minutes on each side, and on the B-side someone has written in pen on the yellowed sticker.

- Sophie, Sep. 77, it says.

She is 49 years old, and it is her bright child's voice that is heard singing and talking on the tape recordings.

But there is a problem.

Grown-up Sofie does not know what little Sofie sings and talks about on the tape, because she can no longer understand the language that she herself spoke in 1977

At that time, Sofie had just arrived in Denmark from South Korea.

In fact, the little girl on the tapes didn't even know her name was Sofie, and the only words she knew in Danish were "one, two, three".

From Mi to Sofie

Throughout her three-year life, the little girl had been called Mi Jin Kang, but in the late summer of 1977, she had ended up with a family in Thy together with her one-year-old little brother, Myung Koo Kang.

And now the two adopted children were named Sofie and Nikolaj Dausell.

There was nothing unusual about that.

Because in the years from 1969 to 2014, around 9,000 South Korean adopted children came to Denmark.

Adoption agencies in Denmark and South Korea collaborated to provide children for Danish families, and although money was sent one way and children the other, the agencies have always maintained that they did not profit from the affair.

The cute kids

Meanwhile, hopeful would-be adoptive parents had to make one of the most important decisions of their lives based on a photograph and a sheet of paper with a brief description of the child they were offered.

- Mi Jin Kang is a very cute, sweet little girl with a healthy appearance. Her physical growth is appropriate for her age. She has almost the same skin color as her younger brother, with dark hair and dark almond-coloured eyes, it says in Sofie Randel's adoption papers.

Here you can also read that she is social, active and happy.

- She expresses herself quite well verbally for her age, it also says.

It confirms the tape recording, of which you will receive a translation shortly.

A little while ago a lady came and took me with her. I was shaking

Sofie on tape recording from 1977

Sofie's younger brother, Myung Koo Kang, is described as a "very sweet, lovable and healthy baby".

- According to the records from the Namkwang Orphanage, he has been very healthy ever since he was placed there, his papers say.


In Nikolaj's adoption papers there is also an explanation of how the two children ended up at the Namkwang orphanage in the South Korean city of Pusan.

- The journals from the home say that they were placed there on June 22, 1977 as lost children. Their names and dates of birth are known from notes on their clothing. It said they were siblings. There is no information about the parents, it says.

Sofie Randel's adoptive parents in Thy also got some extra information about how their two children had ended up in the orphanage.

It was allegedly some nuns who found the two siblings abandoned on the street in Pusan.

- What we have been told is that Nikolaj was tied to my back. I was three years old, Nikolaj was six months old. We have been told that our names and dates of birth were on our clothes, says Sofie Randel to TV 2's documentary series 'The Secret in the Shadow Archive'.

The programs look more closely at whether the information that the adoptees have been given about their own early childhood even fits.

The lies

In the past year, stories about adoptions from South Korea have filled quite a bit of the media picture.

Several adoptees accuse the authorities in South Korea of ​​having cheated on their papers and adopted them to the West with a lie in their luggage.

Maybe they just took a boy and a girl and said they were siblings

Nikolaj Dausell, adopted from South Korea

It was then only legal to adopt children out of South Korea if they were orphans.

However, if you look at the numbers, there were an incredible number of orphans in South Korea at that time.

From 1976 to 2012, 105,000 lost children were adopted from South Korea to the West, and if all the children were really orphans, eight orphans were found on the streets in South Korea every single day for 36 years.

The doubt

In Denmark, the many South Korean foundlings solved a problem.

Here, there was a lack of children for couples who could not have any themselves.

At the same time, the Danes were told a story that South Korea was a very poor country and that the parents therefore did a good deed by taking in the many lost children.

Children who, according to the Danish adoption agencies, had been left on the street in South Korea, often with a piece of paper on their clothes, where you could read their name and date of birth.

And like so many other adoptees from Korea, Sofie and Nikolaj have believed their whole lives that they were lost children.

But one day in December 2022, Nikolaj sat and watched TV 2 News.

I think it seems a little fake that I was found on my sister's back

Nikolaj Dausell, adopted from South Korea

He heard that the stories that many Korean adoptees had literally brought in their luggage to Denmark might be wrong.

Was Sofie even his biological sister?

- I think it seems a bit fake that I was found on my sister's back. It sounds as if they just needed to find a story that would sound good, says Nikolaj and adds:

- Maybe they just took a boy and a girl and said they were siblings.

The tape in the box

Nikolaj called Sofie, and the two decided to turn to TV 2 for help investigating the case.

I've never heard that

Sofie Randel, adopted from South Korea

And it was during one of the first meetings with TV 2 that Sofie thought of the old cassette tape.

- I got it from my father when I turned 18, and it was recorded right after we came to Denmark, where I spoke Korean and sang Korean. I have saved that, but I have never heard it, says Sofie.

Neither adult Sofie nor her parents had any idea that the little girl on the cassette tape was passing on very important information.

The collective in Thy

At the time in 1977, when the tape was recorded, life in Denmark was still very new for the two young children.

Their Danish adoptive parents had been looking forward to the addition of the family and picked up the two new arrivals at Copenhagen Airport, after which they drove them to Thy.

The distance between Thy and Pusan ​​was enormous in more ways than one.

- We were adopted into the big hippie show in Thy. We came to live in a collective and had a summer holiday in Frøstruplejren, says Sofie.

She says that the parents had a lot of focus on their adopted children and that they built the family around them.

The girl who trembled

And it was here, shortly after the arrival, that one of the parents pressed "play" and "record" simultaneously on an old-fashioned tape recorder to save Sofie's words for posterity.

On the recording, you can hear a girl babbling, talking and singing for almost 20 minutes.

It's all in Korean, and TV 2 asked two interpreters to translate the little girl's words.

In the first few minutes, she talks to a baby who is probably Nikolaj, and whom she really wants to eat.

Then she counts to three in Danish, sings a little song and talks about her stockings.

There was my sister, my mother and my grandmother

Sofie Randel, adopted from South Korea

And then she says something that surprises grown-up Sofie:

- I took the bus and I flew. That's how it was. A little while ago a lady came and took me with her. I was shaking. I am not from the USA. I was shaking.

The little girl continues to tell:

- I took a car and I took another car. There was my sister, my mother and my grandmother, she says and puts into words where they drove to.

- There was a lady. There were also babies, says three-year-old Sofie on the recording.

And then little Sofie says some words in Korean that the interpreters cannot understand.

The questions

After hearing the translation of three-year-old Sofie's words, adult Sofie says:

- Ahh, this opens up a lot of questions.

If the little girl on the recording is telling the truth, it could well sound as if Sofie was handed over to an orphanage by her mother and grandmother.

It could also sound as if the experience made such a big impression on the little girl that she trembled afterwards.

I only see me and my older sister. She had long dark hair. Straight hair. She was happy

Sofie Randel, adopted from South Korea

She does not mention anything about her little brother being in the car, so maybe Sofie and Nikolaj are not biological siblings at all.

But maybe she has an older sister.

- I have always felt that I had an older sister. There is such a dream I have had several times. It was inside such a round house and we slept on the ground. I only see me and my older sister. She had long dark hair. Straight hair. She was happy. I remember it as something positive, says Sofie.

Is she still alive somewhere?

And why does it say in the two siblings' papers that they are orphans, when little Sofie said in 1977 that she had been handed over to an orphanage?

Secret documents

A possible answer to that question can be found in 6,000 pages of documents, letters and accounts from the adoption agencies, to which TV 2 has been given unique access.

Here we can see that the South Korean adoption agencies often lied to the orphans.

Thus, they could be adopted out of the country, and each child sent to Denmark brought in money for the adoption agencies and the South Korean state.

Here you can see, for example, a document from one of the Danish agencies, which contains an estimate of how much the Koreans earned from each adopted child in 1993 and 1994.

We can also see in the papers that the adoption agencies were very careful not to say anything out loud about what was really going on.

They speak in codes in their letters and won't talk about the deals on the phone. Instead, they meet physically when they have to agree on a price for the children.

The old story

The agencies in Denmark also knew very well that the children were lied to as orphans.

- This is a very old story. The names of the biological parents cannot be put on the adoption documents due to unique reasons that are difficult to describe in writing, says, among other things, communications between adoption agencies in Denmark and South Korea from 1982.

In South Korea, however, documents with the names of the children's biological parents were often hidden and kept in secret shadow archives.

But the papers usually belong to the adoption agencies and they will not hand them over.

According to documents from the orphanage, your biological parents were married and had five children

Letter from the adoption agency KSS to Nikolaj Dausell

And therefore it is difficult for the adoptees to discover the truth about their early childhood and biological family relationships.

But Sofie and Nikolaj tried anyway.

A new explanation

After hearing the tape recording, the two had a DNA test done, which established that they are indeed biological siblings.

And then Nikolaj sent a letter to the adoption agency KSS in South Korea to find out if he and Sofie are actually orphans.

The answer came on 20 January 2023 after several weeks of waiting.

Do we have any siblings at all, or is it just a story they have told us

Nikolaj Dausell, adopted from South Korea

Neither he nor Sofie was found on the street.

- According to documents from the orphanage, your biological parents were married and had five children. Your biological father could not work hard because he had injured his back at his job, and the financial situation was not favorable enough to entertain all family members, so it was decided to adopt you away, says the letter from KSS.

Initially, the adoption agency promised that they would try to find Sofie and Nikolaj's family, but soon after an email arrived with a discouraging message.

Their parents are dead, and therefore KSS cannot provide more information about them.

Destination South Korea

According to the email, Nikolaj and Sofie's siblings were possibly alive, but the agency could not say more about them either.

- Do we have any siblings at all, or is it just a story they told us, said Nikolaj when he heard the news.

He agreed with Sofie that the two of them should go to South Korea themselves to look for their family.

Nikolaj did not want to spend several months of his life waiting for the slow communication from the adoption agency KSS in South Korea.

He suffers from brain cancer and does not know how long he will be well enough to meet any living family members in South Korea.

That's why Nikolaj and Sofie went to Seoul to find answers themselves in the spring of 2023.

Before they left, the adoption agency KSS wrote to Nikolaj that they were willing to open the siblings' case because he was seriously ill with cancer.

So when the siblings boarded the plane to South Korea, they were full of hope.

False expectations.

Because the hunt for their family would prove to be very, very difficult.

Closed-mindedness and lies

The visit illustrates how difficult it can be for adoptees from South Korea to find their relatives.

Even if the relatives want to be found.

I came home after I had been out playing and my siblings were gone

Hui Gu Kang, brother

Sofie and Nikolaj sought out the Korean adoption agency KSS, the public authority NCRC, which safeguards children's rights in South Korea, a South Korean member of parliament and the orphanage where they lived as children.

But without anyone being able or willing to help them find their family.

Although the two siblings managed to find their biological parents' ID numbers in a file, they could not even be allowed to make an entry in the South Korean ID Registry because they are not South Korean citizens.

At the Namkwang orphanage, where Sofie and Nikolaj had lived before being sent to Denmark, they discovered another lie.

Nikolaj had not been a healthy and fit baby, as it otherwise appeared from the adoption papers.

He had been sick most of the time and was in the sick ward without his sister.

The miracle at the police station

As a last resort, Sofie and Nikolaj went to a police station in Seoul.

This time they would report missing in a last desperate attempt to find some relatives.

And when one of the officers searched Sofie's original Korean name in the register, there was a match.

By mistake, she had not been erased as a South Korean citizen in 1977.

A mistake that suddenly made the impossible possible.

In order to get the case under control, the officers had to contact one of Sofie and Nikolaj's supposed siblings to make sure they were related.

A possible big brother.

It was a man who missed his two younger siblings after they had been adopted in 1977.

When his mother died in 2008, he had made a discovery among her mother's possessions that was as remarkable as the cassette tape Sofie was given by her Danish father.

The pictures from Denmark

He had found a photo album with pictures of his two adopted siblings.

Images that Sofie and Nikolaj had seen before.

They were taken in Denmark and somehow ended up in a photo album with Sofie and Nikolaj's biological parents in South Korea.

In the secret adoption documents obtained by TV 2, we can see that all adoptive parents were asked to send three pictures of the children to the Danish adoption agency.

We can also see that the Danish agency AC Adoption, which handled Nikolaj and Sofie's adoption cases, had an agreement that they should forward the photos to South Korea.

Why did AC Adoption forward the photos if they thought the two siblings were foundlings?

TV 2 has tried to find out, but has not succeeded in getting an answer from the employees who were responsible at the time.

A trauma in the family

Shortly after confirming that the man with the photo album was indeed their brother, Sofie and Nikolaj were reunited with their two older brothers and their older sister.

In the video below you can see that the three Korean siblings are very affected by the case.

And it turns out that the adoption case is still a heavy burden for the family in South Korea.

Sofie and Nikolaj's older brother Hui Gu Kang clearly remembers the day when they were suddenly gone.

- I came home after I had been out playing, and then my siblings were gone, and I was completely frightened, says Hui Gu Kang.

- I said to myself: Why aren't they there? And then I could see on my mother and father that they had strange looks on their faces. I was scared, so I couldn't ask them, he says.

The parents had given away their two youngest children because the family lived in poverty, and they only told the remaining siblings some time later.

- You were always in our hearts. We have always tried to find you, says Hui Gu Kang to Sofie and Nikolaj.

Home for sister

The experience was so traumatic for their oldest elder brother, Hyong Gu Kang, that it changed his life.

- After they were adopted away, I decided I didn't want to get married. I wouldn't want something like this to happen to my children, he says, adding that he has been looking for his siblings all his life.

- Now that I have met them, all the stones in my heart and body have fallen away. I am so happy, he says.

So it was true what the three-year-old girl sang on the cassette tape in 1977.

And the words on the tape that the interpreters in Denmark could not translate?

I want to go to my sister

Sophie, 1977

The family knows them.

- I want to go home to my sister, says little Sofie in Korean.

47 years later, Sofie's sister replies:

- I missed seeing you so much. It's ok now.