A New York woman is accused of taking two South Korean children into her home and using them as slave labor for the last six years, according to police.
In addition to doing “meticulous” housework that lasted 10 hours each day after school, Sook Yeong Park, 42, forced the victims to give her back and foot massages, as well as pedicures, police said. As recently as last week, a police affidavit states, Park forced one victim to give her “a five-hour body massage.”
Park faces charges of labor trafficking, assault and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Queen’s District Attorney’s office. Park was arraigned Saturday and ordered held on $10,000 bond or $2,500 cash bail.
If convicted, she faces up to seven years in jail, authorities said.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Park forced her victims “to do her bidding.”
“The defendant lives on a quiet, tree-lined Queens street with neat brick veneer homes that offered no clues to the horrors that she allegedly made her two young victims endure beginning when they were nine and eleven in age,” Brown said in a statement. “According to the charges, the defendant cut off all contact between the two young victims and their parents in Korea, held them hostage in her home by seizing their passports, forced them to do household chores well into the night and to work outside of the home and turn over all their earnings to her.
“In return, the victims were allegedly given space to sleep on the floor without a mattress. In the older child’s case, the space allegedly was in a closet.”
The home— “on a quiet, tree-lined street” in Flushing, according to DNAInfo — was a house of “horrors,” the district attorney said.
Park’s lawyer, Dennis Ring, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The victims — a brother and sister who arrived at Park’s home in 2010 — are now 14 and 16, the affidavit states.
The teenagers were also forced to work long hours at Queens supermarkets and had to fork over their earnings to Park.
Park told the teenagers they owed her payment from their $10-an-hour jobs because their mother wasn’t sending any money from Korea to pay for their expenses, according to the affidavit.
Police said the victims endured physical abuse; in one instance, according to the affidavit, Park scratched one of the siblings with a nail clipper because her pedicure “was not up to her standards,” causing “substantial pain.”
“The defendant routinely beat them by striking them with objects, slapping them, stepping on their legs and kicking them about the body for not obeying her orders causing them to fear her,” the affidavit states.
DNAinfo reported that the children’s treatment came to light after the brother reported the abuse to officials at his middle school.
School officials then reported the abuse to administrators at the sister’s high school.
Annette Palomino, an assistant principal at Francis Lewis High School, noticed bruising on the girl’s legs, according to the affidavit. Brown noted that the abuse had caused the teenager to miss school and frequently fall asleep in class.
“On the same day, the assistant principal went to Park’s residence and demanded that Park turn over the two victims’ passports, which Park ultimately did,” the district attorney’s statement said.
Two days later, the assistant principal brought both teenagers to the grocery store where they worked and collected the salary they were owed, the statement said. After learning about the abuse, school officials notified police and an investigation began, the statement added.
According to DNAinfo:
Sources said the siblings were “relieved” to tell their story and were open with investigators about what they had endured.
The school’s principal, Dr. David Marmor, said the staff at Francis Lewis “acted immediately and followed protocol. The safety and security of students is our top priority.”
Last week, for the first time in three years, the teenagers were able to speak with their mother in Korea, Brown told DNAinfo. He added that the siblings are staying with a social worker and it’s not yet known whether they’ll remain in the United States or be returned to Korea.
Dimitra Ayfandis, a neighbor, told DNAinfo that she saw never suspected anything was amiss.
She said she paid the siblings $10 after they offered to clear snow from her driveway after a storm last winter.
“The teens came and asked if I needed help,” she told DNAinfo. “They’re nice kids.”
“Kids, they are angels,” she added. “You can’t do that.”