A Flushing couple has admitted to holding two Korean children as slaves in their home, forcing them to do their bidding from cleaning the house to performing body massages and giving over their earned money from outside jobs.
Sook Yeong Park, 50, and Jeong Taek Lee, 54, pleaded guilty to two counts of labor trafficking. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Sept. 13, where Park faces 6 months in jail to be followed by five years’ probation. Lee will be sentenced to five months’ probation.
According to the charges, in January 2010 the two victims, who were brother and sister, were brought to Park’s home by a relative from Korea to live with the couple. Shortly afterwards, the children’s passports were taken from them and the female victim was forced to work after school by doing housework and providing Park with back and foot massages and manicures and pedicures.
From April 2013 until January 2016, the female victim was required to work a number of outside jobs, including in a grocery stores, a nail salon, a restaurant and as a babysitter. She was then forced to hand over all the money she earned to the couple. The male victim was forced to work in a grocery store for at least one day a month starting in August 2015, and was forced to turn over his earnings.
The victims were told that they had to work to pay for their living expenses. However, their parents were sending money to Park and Lee for their care.
Between January 2010 and January 2016, the female victim was forced to sleep on the floor in a small closet and her brother had to sleep on a bedroom floor.
During this time, the victims were not allowed to contact their parents in Korea. If they were to contact their parents, it was under Park’s supervision, who coached them on what to say.
The victims told school officials about the physical abuse, leading the officials to call the police. Following an investigation from the police, Park was arrested and arraigned before the Queens Criminal Court on Jan. 9, 2017. Lee was later arrested on July 19.
“The Flushing pair were supposed to provide a safe home for the youngsters, but instead the children were held hostage and forced to work long hours on behalf of the couple,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said. “The victims in this case have been reunited with their biological parents in Korea and this disposition will allow them to continue on with their lives without having to revisit the horrors of their time with the defendants.”