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Korean Teens Held as 'Slaves' at Flushing Home Until School Intervened: DA

By Katie Honan | January 12, 2016 11:41am | Updated on January 12, 2016 1:20pm
 Sook Yeong Park allegedly brought a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl to the U.S. in 2010. She kept them in this home in Flushing, the DA said.
Sook Yeong Park allegedly brought a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl to the U.S. in 2010. She kept them in this home in Flushing, the DA said.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

FLUSHING — A woman held two Korean teens captive in her home for more than 5 years, forcing them to give her massages, manicures and pedicures and beating them while cutting off all contact with their parents, according to the Queens District Attorney

Sook Yeong Park, 42, is suspected of bringing a boy and his older sister to the United States in 2010 when they were 9 and 11 years old, then confiscated their passports and moving with them to a home on 196th Street near Northern Boulevard in Flushing, cutting off communication with their parents, District Attorney Richard Brown said. 

Park forced the girl, now 16, to clean the house after school and sometimes kept her home from school to do so, prosecutors said. She also demanded hours-long massages, manicures and pedicures, beating the teen when displeased by the results, the DA said.

The siblings also endured physical and emotional abuse and were forced to work after school at Queens supermarkets and turn over all the money to Park — who told them that they owed her the $10 an hour they made because their mother wasn't sending her anything to support them, according to the DA. 

► UPDATE: Child 'Slaves' Were Allowed to Stay in Abuser's Home Despite May Arrest, DA Says

Sources close to the investigation said the siblings were rescued after the 14-year-old boy told officials at his middle school about the abuse.

Officials at Francis Lewis High School, where the 16-year-old girl attends school, were then notified by the middle school, sources said.

The students attended Francis Lewis High School on Utopia Parkway, officials said. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)

After they were notified, assistant principal Annette Palomino noticed the girl had bruises and she had grown concerned about the girl's frequent absences. She also saw fresh wounds on her head and legs stemming from an attack last Monday and Tuesday, authorities said.

Palomino had also grown concerned because the girl kept falling asleep in class, prosecutors said.

The girl confided to Palomino about the ongoing abuse, and the school notified police, Brown said.

The teacher went to the home January 7 to demand Park turn over the passports belonging to the girl and her brother, according to prosecutors and the criminal complaint.

Palomino also went to the grocery stores where the teens worked and demanded they turn over the salary owed to them, the DA said.

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.”

Park was arrested and arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on Saturday on charges of labor trafficking, third-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child. 

"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," Brown said. 

Park's lawyer, Dennis Ring, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The teens were able to speak to their mother in Korea last week for the first time in three years, the DA said. They are currently with a social worker, the DA said. It's unclear whether they will stay in the U.S. or be returned to Korea.

Brown said the home on a quiet, tree-lined street was a house of "horrors" for the siblings.

Both teens slept on the floor of Park's home, without mattresses and only one blanket. The girl slept in a small closet while her brother slept on a bedroom floor, the DA said.

Neighbor Dimitra Ayfandis, 56, said she only saw the teens with Park, but added that she had no idea anything was wrong.

Last winter she said the teens offered to clean her driveway following a snowstorm — and she gave them $10 for their time.

"The teens came and asked if I needed help," she said. "They're nice kids."

She added that the allegations were horrific.

"Kids, they are angels," she said. "You can't do that."