The Flushing woman who was charged earlier this year with keeping two Korean children as slaves wasn't working alone, the Queens District Attorney announced yesterday: her husband was also involved, and the two have now been indicted by a grand jury for labor trafficking and exploitation.
The alleged abuse came to light earlier this year when the two siblings, a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, reported it to officials at their school, who notified the police. Sook Yeong Park, 49, was arrested on January 9th and held on a $10,000 bail, but yesterday, Queens County Supreme Court Justice Joseph Zayas increased that to $250,000 after she was indicted by the grand jury. Her husband, 53-year-old Jeong Taek Lee, has now also been charged in the 61-count indictment, which charges the couple with labor trafficking, endangering the welfare of a child, second- and third-degree assault, forcible touching, second-degree grand larceny, petit larceny, and first degree criminal contempt.
According to DA Richard Brown, the children's parents sent them to live with Park and Lee in 2010, when the kids were eight and eleven years old. Shortly after they arrived, the couple allegedly confiscated the children's passports and made the girl do housework for 10 hours every day after school. She also allegedly had to provide Park with services such as massages and mani-pedis, and when that mani-pedi was at one point unsatisfactory, Park scratched the girl with a nail clipper, prosecutors say.
When the girl was old enough to legally work, in April of 2013, Park allegedly made her work a number of jobs—at grocery stores; as a babysitter; at a nail salon; at a restaurant—and is said to have forced her to turn over all of her earnings to Park and Lee. Similarly, when the boy turned 14, the couple allegedly made him start working at a grocery store and turn over all of his earnings.
Prosecutors say that the children were told that they had to earn their keep because their parents in Korea weren't sending any money, but apparently their parents sent over $100,000 between 2009 and 2016 for their care and education. Those parents were apparently kept completely in the dark about the abuses their children were facing. When the children were allowed to talk to their parents, Park allegedly supervised the communication, in some cases putting them on speakerphone and telling them what to say. The week of Park's arrest in January was the first time that the female victim had spoken to her mother in Korea since 2013, the DA said at the time.
And the abuse charges don't end there. The children were allegedly made to sleep on the floor while living with Park and Lee, and Park allegedly beat them frequently, at one point breaking a glass dish over the boy's legs and beating him with a wooden slipper, necessitating his hospitalization. Park was arrested after that incident, but took a plea deal that allowed her to keep the children if she took anger management and parenting courses, the DA's office said.
Shortly before Park's arrest this January, she allegedly kicked the girl so hard in the leg that she caused it to swell, and the next day, she cut off her hair and kicked her in the head. Park is also accused of sexually abusing the children.
When the children reported the abuse to Francis Lewis High School in January, assistant principal Annette Palomino went to the couple's house and demanded that they turn over the children's passports; she also accompanied the siblings to the grocery store where they worked so that they could collect their earnings.
Park's attorney has called the allegations "completely one-sided" and "salacious," and has argued that the teens could have sought help if they needed it. The charges, he said, are a "fairy tale."
Park and Lee are each facing up to 15 years in prison.