The Queens District Attorney says a Flushing woman kept two children from Korea captive for more than five years, beginning when they were 9 and 11 years old. DNAInfo reports that Sook Yeong Park, 42, is suspected of bringing the children into the country, then beating them and treating them as virtual slaves.
The children were brother and sister, an older girl and younger boy. According to DNAInfo’s report, Park is believed to have confiscated the children’s passports shortly after they arrived in the country, then told them they owed her money because their mother wasn’t sending any for their care. She’s accused of subjecting them to beatings, forcing them to work at supermarkets and turn all the money over to her, and forcing the girl to give her hours-long massages and pedicures. The girl was beaten if Park was displeased with the results, according to District Attorney Richard A. Brown’s office.
Newsday reports that the DA’s office also believes Park forced both children to sleep on the floor, the older girl in a closet, and would routinely keep her awake until 2 a.m. forcing her to clean the house. The children are now 14 and 16 and said they recently spoke to their mother for the first time in more than three years.
The abuse was discovered after they disclosed it to officials at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens. In a press release, Brown’s office says a teacher at the school noticed the girl was having trouble staying awake in class, and saw fresh bruising on her legs.
“On the same day,” the release adds, “the assistant principal went to Park’s residence and demanded that Park turn over the two victims’ passports, which Park ultimately did.” The next day, January 9, the assistant principal then took the two children to the grocery store where they’d been working and had them collect the salaries they were owed.
Park is being charged with labor trafficking, third-degree assault, and endangering the welfare of a child; she faces up to seven years in prison.
Francis Lewis High School, where both victims were students. Image via Google Maps