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Woman Who Kept Korean Kids as 'Slaves' Extorted $100K from Parents: DA

By Katie Honan | May 24, 2016 2:42pm | Updated on May 24, 2016 3:50pm
 Sook Yeong Park was arraigned May 24, 2016 on a 60-count indictment after allegedly keeping two Korean teens as slaves.
Sook Yeong Park was arraigned May 24, 2016 on a 60-count indictment after allegedly keeping two Korean teens as slaves.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

FLUSHING — The woman accused of keeping two Korean teens as "slaves" in her home was arraigned Tuesday on a 61-count indictment on charges including taking more than $100,000 from the biological parents of her victims, according to the DA's office.

Sook Yeong Park, 49, was hauled out of Queens Supreme Court in handcuffs after being charged with grand larceny, labor trafficking, assault, criminal contempt and forcible touching for her treatment of a brother and sister she's accused of bringing from Korea in 2010. 

Her husband, Jeong Taek Lee, 53, was also set to be arraigned Tuesday on grand larceny and labor trafficking charges, the DA said.

Park is being held on $250,000 bail.

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

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Melton told Judge Joseph Zayas that, after an extensive investigation, investigators found Park was demanding exorbitant amounts from the biological parents of the two children — "claiming it was for their private school education and activities" — while sending the kids to public school. 

Park allegedly texted photos of the teens —  who came to Queens from South Korea in 2010, when they were 9 and 11 years old — to their parents along with messages including, "Mommy, send me money," Melton said. 

But Park blocked the teens from having contact with their parents for years unless it was supervised by her, according to the DA's office.

"The only enjoyment these kids had was getting out of this house and going to school," Melton said in court.

The kids frequently missed class and, when they did attend school, they had a hard time staying awake due to working late nights at a supermarket, Korean restaurants and nail salons at Park's insistence, the DA said.

Park confiscated their wages and took their school-issued MetroCards to give to her own children, prosecutors said.

Teachers noticed something was wrong as both students showed increasing signs of trouble — including falling asleep in class, showing up with fresh bruises and hoarding food, officials said. 

Park's lawyer, Dennis Ring, called the charges a "fairy tale."

"It's completely one-sided, salacious allegations," he said, adding that the teens had smartphones and were living in one of the world's largest Korean communities outside of Seoul — not a "dungeon" without communication or ways to seek aid if it were needed.

He added that the 17-year-old girl's Facebook and Instagram pages showed no signs of distress, and she joked about not going to school because the weather was nice.

Park had been arrested in May 2015 after allegedly hitting the younger son, who has a physical disability, with a wooden shoe.

But she was allowed to keep the children in her custody after taking a plea deal last September in exchange for taking anger management and parenting courses, according to the DA's office. 

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

The children were finally taken from her custody in January 2016 after an assistant principal from their school grew concerned about the students and went to their home to get them and their passports, prosecutors said.

Both Park and Lee face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, according to the DA's office.