Private Project

King of Clones

From groundbreaking human cloning research to a scandalous downfall, this documentary tells the captivating story of Korea's most notorious scientist, Hwang Woo-Suk.

  • Aditya Thayi
  • Colm Whelan
  • Neil Harvey
  • Syahirah A. Karim
  • Dan Deacon
    Original Score
  • Simon Barker
  • Aditya Thayi
    Executive Producer
  • Kavitha Wijeyeratne
    Executive Producer
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 25 minutes
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
    English, Korean
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Aditya Thayi

Aditya Thayi is one of Asia’s leading documentary filmmakers with more than 20 nominations and five wins at the Asian Television Awards. He has filmed extensively across the world and is known for his unique style and the use of humour in his films, which have given him two wins for Best Director. He is well known in the industry as a pilot director for various international broadcasters like National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and the History Channel. He has been involved in more than 80 hours of cutting-edge shows for various international broadcasters and has also produced fiction with the film ‘Jonaki’, which had its premiere at the Bright Future section at the 47th International Film Festival of Rotterdam.

In 2017, Thayi co-founded the original film production company Peddling Pictures with long-time collaborator Kavitha Wijeyeratne. Peddling Pictures has the experience of more than 180 hours of critically acclaimed, cutting-edge content produced for the usual stable of local and international television channels, with a belt of more than 50 awards for broadcasters including National Geographic, Discovery, Channel NewsAsia, Sony Entertainment, AETN, and HBO. Some award-winning productions by the company include Riot Island (2022), Click To Ransom (2022), Into The Vault (2021), Deciphering Japan (2020), and The Negotiators (2019).

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Director Statement

As a filmmaker, I am attracted to stories that seem bizarre and absurd on the surface but reveal something darker and complex about human nature. I stumbled upon Dr Hwang while researching the woolly mammoth project which is absolutely nuts. The more I dug into Dr Hwang’s past, and after speaking to him, I saw a story of a man desperately seeking redemption.

Dr Hwang was more than Korea’s first celebrity scientist. When he became the first in the world to clone dogs, he gave ordinary Koreans hope and confidence in the international arena. The scandal of him faking his findings was also a collective dream-bust for the country, a source of shame for the nation in the eyes of the international community.

I wanted to make a gripping science documentary that feels like a classic whodunit crime caper with twists and turns, as well as an exploration of the grey areas of science and the ethical and moral dilemmas that simmer below the surface of cutting-edge research. I wanted to do this through the personal story of Dr Hwang. Most articles in Western media refer to Dr Hwang as a disgraced scientist, and I wanted to challenge the narrative alongside challenging Dr Hwang himself. Through this film I also wanted Dr Hwang to stand trial, tell us what really happened, and reflect on the seemingly grey areas he operates in. I believe there is a nuance that is clearly missing from this story that was worth exploring.

A big character in the film is South Korea itself. After Parasite’s Oscar win and BTS’s rise on the billboard charts, the country is the flavour of the season, but Korea is not just all K-pop. Like many Asian, I grew up watching Korean films, but not until I produced a four-part series about Korea did I understand the complexity of Korean identity. As this country rose from the dust of dictatorship, it began to find its place in the world and was obsessed with joining the ranks of other advanced countries. I felt Dr Hwang’s story in some way is the story of Korea and the story of Asian aspiration.

Most importantly I wanted to explore what happens when everyone faces great pressure to produce results at any cost. When cozy ties between government, business, the media and academics stifle criticism. When some people believe it is acceptable to sacrifice ethics, safety and other concerns for the sake of nationalism.