In Queens, a Tyrant: Child Labor Trafficking in a New York Borough

A quiet residential street in Queens isn’t typically be the first place that comes to mind when you think about human trafficking. Yet earlier this month, an idyllic neighborhood block in the borough was thrust into the spotlight as a site of modern-day slavery.

After more than five years of forced labor, a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl are hoping for a brighter future now that they are in the custody of child welfare officials. Sook Yeong Park, the 42-year-old woman who allegedly held these children hostage for six years, now faces multiple charges, including labor trafficking.

Park reportedly held the minors’ passports and cut off all communication with their parents. She then forced the children to work in grocery stores, keeping their earnings for herself. She also forced them to do endless housework and give her foot and body massages. The children were attending public school, and an assistant high school principal noticed bruises on the girl’s legs, tipping off law enforcement that ultimately rescued the children.

Labor trafficking takes many forms, but most picture impoverished men and women toiling in sweatshops in far away countries. But stories like this in Queens show just how pervasive this massive criminal enterprise really is. Ending human trafficking requires bringing together leaders from business, government, law enforcement, civil society, and local communities to build better policies ensuring more traffickers end up behind bars and fewer people fall victim to their crimes.

For more information on Human Rights First’s approach to bankrupting slavery, read our blueprint, How to Dismantle the Business of Human Trafficking.

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Published on January 22, 2016

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