Netflix has unveiled “King of Clones,” a sensational documentary film featuring unprecedented access to South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk, and has set a June streaming date.
From human cloning research to scandalous downfall, the documentary tells the story of Korea’s most infamous scientist, Hwang Woo-suk. Armed with a degree in veterinary science and a masters and doctorate in theriogenology, the study of animal reproduction, Hwang’s rise to prominence began with the successful cloning of cows and pigs. In 2002, Hwang began human cloning research and partnered with Moon Shin-yong, an obstetrician specializing in in-vitro fertilization. Their collaboration led to a major announcement in 2004, claiming the successful cloning of human embryos, which had the potential to cure certain diseases. The announcement sparked a heated debate on bioethics, with Hwang and Moon insisting that their work is focused only on medical purposes and strongly opposing reproductive cloning.
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However, the tide turned against Hwang in November of that year when he admitted to using human eggs donated by two of his researchers – an ethical breach that rocked the scientific community. Despite Hwang’s insistence that the researchers had donated voluntarily, suspicions of coercion emerged, forcing him to step down from his position as director of the World Stem Cell Hub. Despite this, Hwang maintained significant public support in South Korea, with hundreds of women volunteering to donate their eggs. In 2006, Hwang’s position at Seoul National University was terminated and he later moved to Abu Dhabi where he continued his cloning research under the tutelage of Sheikh Mansour.
“King of Clones”, a Netflix UK commission is directed by Indian-origin, London-based Singaporean filmmaker Adiya Thai through his Peddling Pictures, which he Founded in 2017 with Kavitha Vijayaratne, former Endemol Shine head of Line Production. Thai has 20 nominations and five wins at the Asian Television Awards, including two wins for Best Direction. Pedaling Pictures’ latest production, “Riot Island”, was chosen as one of the DiversityK15 Discussion Title won three awards at the 2023 London Screening and at the 2023 New York Festivals Film & TV Awards.
Thai had come to know about Hwang three years earlier. “Before my first son was born, I was really paranoid for some very strange reason that my son was going to be malformed. And I was really looking into the science of birth and IVF. And then I realized that in the 1980s A lot of these kids who were born in India in the decade were really traumatized by the Bhopal gas tragedy. I remember seeing the thalidomide kids, the polio kids, there was a lot of deformity growing up, I think of my own son. My own anxiety before birth probably had some role to play in it. I was watching it and some of the stories about human cloning came to my mind.’ Diversity,
In preparation for “King of Clones”, Thai produced “Deciphering South Korea”, a four-part Channel News Asia series that looked into some of the country’s pressing and complex issues. “We are very aware that we are not Koreans who are telling this story. But somehow it freed us to tell it without attachment, but still with our own unique Asian sensibilities,” said Thai. We set out to make a film about what happens when the domain of the gods intersects with the domain of scientists and Hwang’s life gave us material to talk about on a variety of topics we wanted to touch on. “
It took nine months for Hwang to reach him and Thai finally met him and stayed with him at his villa on the grounds of a seven-star hotel in the middle of a desert in Abu Dhabi owned by Sheikh Mansour. Hwang told Thai that he receives an average of 50 interview requests a month from American and Korean news organizations, but turns them all down.
“There’s a reason he said ‘yes’ to me, and I probably think it’s because I was this Asian international, he felt he could trust me to tell his version of the story – and sure Not being Korean by appearance helped me access my Thai said.
“I went into this movie thinking I’d get a crazy monster in science, but I think science — there’s really nothing wrong with it, it’s pretty solid. I think it’s just human beings We haven’t really had a discussion about where science can take us,” Thai said. “It’s been possible to clone a human for at least 10 years, there’s scientific potential, it’s just that somewhere someone just has to do it. And then you have to account for it. But I’m afraid we haven’t really Haven’t spent that much time thinking about it.”
Thai describes Hwang as a “polarizing figure” in Korea and wants to take an aim at him. “I could give him the space to explain where he came from and even hold him accountable for it. The fact is that somehow we were very aware that we were responsible for everything he did.” And somehow he did, ‘I’m sorry, but this is who I am, whether I like it or not,’ and I admire that,” Thai said.
“King of Clones” was produced by Syahirah A. Karim and executive produced by Vijayaratne and Thai. Shot by Colm Whelan (IFTA winner for “1916 A Terrible Beauty”) and Neil Harvey (BAFTA nominee for “Untouchable”), edited by Simon Barker (BAFTA nominee for “American Murder: The Family Next Door”) Has been done and has a feature. Score by Dan Deacon (“Hustle”). It streams on Netflix from 23 June.
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