NEW YORK (AP) — A housekeeper has accused a Korean Buddhist monk and his family of forcing her to work as a "slave" in their New York City home.
According to The New York Times, the lawsuit alleges the family kept the woman a prisoner in their Queens home for 12 years under threat of death.
The suit was filed by Oak-Jin Oh last week in Manhattan federal court. It names Soo Bok Choi, a Buddhist monk, two of his brothers, his son and daughter, a niece and the representative of the estate of his mother, who died in 2009.
The Times says it visited the homes of three of the defendants but efforts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn declined to comment.
The civic lawsuit was filed by the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and claims that although Oh "was promised wages for her work, she was never paid." And "when she asked for her pay, the Choi family responded with threats of physical harm and death. In addition, they did not allow her any days off, deprived her of medical care, withheld her passport, and restricted her ability to make contact with anyone outside the household."
"This man calls himself a monk, but to me, he is a criminal," said Oh, through an interpreter, according to an AALDEF press release. She continued, "He stole 12 years of my life even though I worked hard for him and his family. It's not right to look down on the weak and cause them damage just because you have power and status."
AALDEF Staff Attorney Ivy Suriyopas said,"It is deplorable that a worker went without pay for 12 years," adding, "The defendants were able to intimidate her, isolate her, and lie to her about the laws in the U.S. and her rights for so long. Unfortunately, labor trafficking continues to exist in the shadows, but this immigrant worker has stepped forward to assert her rights and expose her abusive working conditions."
In the 2007 "Muttontown Slave Trial", a wealthy Long Island couple was convicted in court of enslaving and torturing two Indonesian domestic workers.