A New York couple who was entrusted to care for two South Korean children abused them and treated them as personal slaves, forcing them to do tasks such as providing body massages and pedicures, the Queens district attorney’s office said Wednesday.
Sook Yeon Park, 50, and Jeong Taek Lee, 54, welcomed the two children to their Flushing home in January 2010, the district attorney said. They were given the authority to educate and take care of the children, who came to the United States from South Korea.
“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 Brown said in a statement.
Shortly after the children arrived, Park and Lee confiscated their passports and treated them as “slaves.” The boy, who was 9, and the girl, who was 11 at the time, came home from school and worked almost daily for about 10 hours. They did tasks that included household work and giving Park back and foot massages, manicures and pedicures, according to the district attorney.
The abuse continued for six years. During this time, the children were forced to sleep in a small closet and the bedroom floors. The district attorney added that Park constantly beat them with objects, slapped, kicked and stepped on their legs.
By April 2013, the couple had the girl work several jobs at grocery stores, nail salons and restaurants. The boy started working at a grocery store on August 2015. The children received money from their biological parents in South Korea – totaling more than $100,000 – which Park and Lee took for their own use, PIX11 News reported.
The couple would then coach the children on what to tell their biological parents during routine phone calls.
Police began investigating in 2016 when the children reported the abuse to school officials. On Wednesday, the couple pleaded guilty to two counts of labor trafficking, the district attorney said. They are expected to be sentenced on Sept. 13.
The children, who are now 14 and 16, have reunited with their biological parents in South Korea.