North Korea

Review: This Netflix Drama Depicts North Korean Refugees' Tribulations

My Name is Loh Kiwan dramatizes the experiences of refugees escaping oppressive regimes.


After escaping the oppressive regime of North Korea, Loh Kiwan arrives in Belgium to seek asylum, hoping to find freedom and a fresh start. Instead, he finds himself entangled in the bureaucratic limbo of the asylum process.

Without money, a home, or the legal right to work, Kiwan's situation in the South Korean film My Name is Loh Kiwan (streaming on Netflix) becomes increasingly desperate. He is forced to sleep in public bathrooms in the brutal winter and scavenge for food in trash bins. Kiwan finally gets a break when he lands an illegal job at a meat factory. Even then, safety and stability remain agonizingly out of reach.

Although some subplots are melodramatic, the film powerfully portrays the systemic barriers that refugees often face—barriers that can feel as oppressive as the regimes they escaped. Kiwan is trapped: He isn't free to live or work in Belgium, yet he can't leave while his case is pending. Throughout this ordeal, Kiwan realizes that he doesn't crave only the right to live somewhere; he needs the freedom to come and go on his own terms.