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Flushing couple sentenced for enslaving two children

A Flushing couple is sentenced for holding as virtual slaves two young Korean children they were entrusted to care for.
By Gina Martinez

A Flushing couple has been sentenced for enslaving two children over the course of six years, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Sook Yeong Park, 50, and Jeong Taek Lee, 54, both of 196th Street, pleaded guilty in July to two counts of labor trafficking. On Sept. 20, Park was sentenced to two to six years in prison and Lee to five years’ probation for his role, Brown said.

According to Brown, Park and Lee were entrusted with the care and education of two Korean children in 2010, and from that point on the pair forced the children to work without compensation, from cleaning their house to performing body massages and pedicures. The children are related to Park.

“The defendants were supposed to provide a safe home for the children, but instead the two youngsters were held hostage and forced to work long hours on behalf of the couple,” Brown said. “The children had their passports seized and using fear, intimidation and actual physical force, the youngsters were coerced into doing numerous household chores and to work outside the home as well. On payday, the youngsters had to turn over their earnings to the couple.”

According to the charges, around January 2010, the siblings — a sister and brother — were brought to the United States from Korea and began living with the couple. The girl was 11 years old and her brother was 9 years old. After arriving, the children’s passports were taken from them and the sister was forced to do 10 hours of housework, almost daily, after school , the criminal complaint said. She was also forced to give Park back and foot massages, manicures and pedicures, according to the charges.

Brown said that according to court records, from April 2013 through January 2016, the young girl had to work various jobs outside the home, including in a grocery store, a nail salon, a restaurant and as a baby sitter, and was forced to turn over all her earnings to the couple.

Starting in August 2015, the younger brother was also forced to work at a grocery store for at least one day a month and had to hand over his earnings to Park and Lee, Brown said. The siblings were told that they had to work to pay for their living expenses, despite the fact their parents were sending money to the couple for their care, according to the district attorney.

The children also were not allowed to have any contact with their parents without Park being present and coaching them on what to say, Brown said.

The complaint also said from January 2010 until January 2016 the sister was forced to sleep on the floor in a small closet and her brother slept on a bedroom floor. During those six years, Park routinely hit them with objects, slapped them or stepped on their legs and kicked them, the charges said.

“This kind of treatment of another human being is unacceptable and it will not be tolerated in Queens County,” The DA said. “The victims in this case have been reunited with their biological parents in Korea and this resolution allows them to continue with their lives without having to revisit the horrors of their time with the defendants.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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