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Sweatshop owner convicted of human trafficking

March 1, 2003  |  Share

Click here to view Daewoosa, American Samoa campaign page.

Sweatshop owner in American Samoa producing for Wal-Mart, Target and other U.S. retailers has been convicted of Human Trafficking and holding more than 200 workers under conditions of "involuntary servitude." Mr. Kil Soo Lee is facing life in prison.

In March 2001, the NLC released "Made in the U.S.A.?--Nightmare at the Daewoosa Factory in American Samoa" which thoroughly documented the exploitation and violently abusive sweatshop conditions faced by more than 230 workers--mostly young women from Vietnam and China--who were held under conditions of indentured servitude.  The workers were cheated of their wages, beaten, starved, sexually harassed and threatened with deportation if they complained.

These workers sewed clothing for Wal-Mart (Beach Cabana label), Target (Pro Spirit label), Sears (David Taylor), David Peyser Sportswear (MV Sport) and J.C. Penney (Arizona), among others.

To our knowledge, J.C. Penney has been the only retailer to do the right thing--paying more than $350,000 in back wages owed to the Daewoosa workers who sewed their garments.  By contrast, Wal-Mart has done nothing.

This is the largest human trafficking case ever investigated in the United States by the FBI and prosecuted by the Justice Department.

On Friday, February 21 at 4:00 p.m. in a court in Hawaii, Mr. Kil Soo Lee was found guilty on 14 of the 18 counts against him.  Sentencing is scheduled for June 2003.  Mr. Lee faces 20 years in prison on each of 11 counts of indentured servitude and 10 years each for various other charges.

When the NLC first raised this case in the fall of 2000, the governor of American Samoa said the NLC was full of "bull."  It just so happened that the governor's brother was the attorney for the Daewoosa factory.

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