King of Clones review: A weirdly upbeat look into bioethical violations

Netflix’s latest documentary film, King of Clones offers viewers a look into South Korea’s disgraced cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk’s rise and fall.


King of Clones introduces the viewers to the world of cloning and also to Hwang Woo-Suk, a man once heralded as the national pride of South Korea, who was eventually exposed to be a fraudulent scientist who also indulged in bioethics violations.

The documentary takes the viewers through easy-to-understand animations explaining the basic process of cloning. Thereafter, it sheds light on what it means for the modern medical world.

Hwang Woo-Suk’s rise to fame is followed, mapping how he came to be such a revered and popular scientist in the field of cloning. Later on, he published papers on human cloning, which became subjects of extreme intrigue as well as controversies and debates.

He’d later go on to be accused of violating bioethics when the embryos he claimed to have procured from dignified women through consensual means turned out to be sourced from the black market as well as his own graduates.

He was also charged with embezzlement of funds as well as faked stem cell research. He was sentenced to two years which was later reduced substantially. The documentary also sheds light on what kind of uproar it caused among his own fans and the whole nation.


The informative parts of the documentary are truly insightful and there’s a commendable effort to showcase the process involved in stem cell research and cloning animals.

There’s a comprehensive amount of archival footage that aids the storytelling perfectly and the lessons on the political and social atmosphere that Hwang Woo-Suk’s rise to success created make the documentary really fascinating and even educational at some points.


King of Clones does explain, in layman’s terms, the process of cloning and stem cell research, but it does so quite distastefully quite often.

The scenes showcasing the process of artificial breeding and coerced insemination are fleeting and not contemplative, which takes away from the opportunity to see just how ethically wrong some of the aspects of cloning are.

The documentary doesn’t seem to take a stance that does not quite sit right as a better and more critical presentation of cloning and the proclivities for loose ethics that can often surround it would make for a sound message, and it’s not like that would be denouncing science or advocating for religion.

The upbeat nature of the storytelling can come off quite weird, especially when the expository dumps are delivered via comic book-y animations. All of this is sandwiched between morbid content related to heavy philosophical/ethical issues, resulting in a very off-putting tone.


King of Clones is a fascinating watch into the morbidities involved with the world of cloning and how ethics and science are perpetually playing catch-up with each other. However, in telling a greatly paced story, the documentary ditches a more serious and contemplative treatment for a largely upbeat tone which can often become off-putting and weird.

King of Clones
King of Clones review: A weirdly upbeat look into bioethical violations 1

Director: Aditya Thayi

Date Created: 2023-06-23 12:30

Editor's Rating:

Also Read: Take Care of Maya review: Devastating documentary exposes a cruel system

More from The Envoy Web