Largest Korean Spa Under Investigation For Prostitution And Enslaving Workers


A couple of weeks ago, we shared the story of the horrible conditions that employees endured at the “No.1 Korean Restaurant in New York City,” Kum Gang San. A similar case surfaced recently at one of the largest Asian-themed spas advertised in the country. The popular Korean spa and resort in Centreville, Va., Spa World, is under investigation after accusations of nonpayment of wages, slave-like labor conditions and prostitution, the Washington City Paper and local TV station WJLA have reported.

The investigation began in December 2013, when an employee contacted the police about the nonpayment of wages, according to an affidavit for the search warrant obtained from the Fairfax Circuit Court. Since then, Fairfax County’s new human trafficking unit interviewed other reported victims, all of whom have allegedly been deprived of up to $500,000 in nonpayments. Last Wednesday, detectives conducted a search, seizing files, electronic records and listing abduction and willful refusal to pay wages as potential offenses, but no charges against Spa World owners have been filed, according to the Washington City Paper article.

A 60-year-old Korean worker shed light on the horrid conditions. He told authorities that he was recruited from San Francisco as a body scrubber by Spa World’s manager. He practiced ddaemiri, a common exfoliation treatment offered in the bathing areas of the spa. When he arrived, the manager confiscated his shoes and luggage, according to court records, and he was not allowed to leave the premises.

Forced to sleep on the floor, he later relocated to an apartment owned by the spa, which was already occupied by other employees. Other court records show that some workers also live inside Spa World’s unfurnished room.

His roommate, a woman in 60s, told police that her belongings, including her ID, was confiscated when she arrived from New Jersey for the job. The affidavit shows that other employees were allegedly forced to write fraudulent information on employment applications and during inspections, some employees were kept hidden in a “secret room” on the second floor.

The sap’s other unlawful activities included denying lunch breaks, illness and injury leaves for the employees, many of whom are Chinese nationals of Korean descent. Spa World is also accused of prostitution and enslaving its workers. In one case, a worker was forced to pay $2,400 in cash to be allowed to quit.

When local TV station WJLA visited the Spa World facilities, the owner named in court papers, Sang Lee, could not be reached. KJ Park, the spa’s manager, who told ABC7, “[The accusations are] not true. I go around and there’s literally nothing like that going on.”

Spa World advertises itself as “a family-oriented luxury promoting health, beauty, leisure, and life.” It certainly seems like they are not living up to that promise.

Photos via SpaWorld