New documentary film shows privatization as a “Black Deal”

Posted on : 2014-06-20 16:53 KST Modified on : 2014-06-20 16:53 KST
The dark effects of privatization are shown in a range of countries
 from the film “Black Deal”.
from the film “Black Deal”.

By Yu Sun-hui, staff reporter

Two months have already passed since the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry, which left 292 people dead and 12 missing. The main causes of the accident were the government’s push to relax regulations and privatize public enterprises, intended to maximize profits, and the irregularity and corruption that accompanied this push.

An investigation found that the shipping company had overloaded the ship with cargo to increase its profit while neglecting the safety of the passengers. It also showed that regulatory agencies in the private sector frequently carry out perfunctory inspections, willfully overlooking the problems of these shipping companies. Could the Sewol tragedy help us remember once more the problems of privatization that we had been ignoring?

“Black Deal: Who is Privatization For?”, which will open in theaters on July 3, is a documentary film that takes a close look at the dark side of privatization, which is concealed behind a facade of efficiency and profit. The film was produced through crowd funding.

The approach taken by “Black Deal” is different from “Sicko,” the documentary by American director Michael Moore that exposed the underbelly of the private American medical industry, creating a sensation not only in the US but also in South Korea. There are no sensational anecdotes in this film as there were in “Sicko,” which depicted a young person forced by the astronomical cost of medical care to sew up a 10cm gash on his knee himself. Nor are there any direct appeals to the audience, such as when Michael Moore tells viewers to have the courage to express their thoughts.

Instead, “Black Deal” simply provides a detailed look - grounded in meticulous and in-depth reporting - of the situation in seven countries (including Chile, Argentina, the UK, France, Japan, and Germany) that privatized their public sectors earlier than South Korea and are now dealing with the consequences.

The subway system in Argentina, which was privatized in an attempt to reduce public debt, is not only dirty, but has also faced a string of major accidents that caused dozens of fatalities. The trains in Argentina zip along at high speed, packed so full of people that the doors can’t even close.

In Chile, the national pension plan was converted to a private pension plan without the consent of the public. The payments that pensioners receive are a pittance compared with the contributions that they made for decades.

After France privatized its water supply and sewers, water prices soared. Facing opposition from citizens unable to pay their water bills, the government is currently working to renationalize the waterworks.

The UK, Japan, and Germany also privatized a variety of public goods, but the citizens of those countries are suffering from skyrocketing costs, poor service, and large numbers of accidents. Behind such privatization there is always a “black deal” between the private sector and politicians - hence the name of the film.

The film presents all sides of the issue, including the perspectives of the victims of privatization, the apathetic public, workers at public companies, and the CEOs of private corporations. This is distinctly different from most documentaries, which are often one-sided, trying to compel viewers to accept their argument. Viewers of the film can see, hear, and perceive the stark differences in views about privatization through the words of numerous people from different countries. The calm narration of popular singer Jeong Tae-chun adds to the film’s sense of neutrality. Furthermore, Black Deal does not offer any kind of answer. Rather, it calmly and seriously asks the audience what they think about their public resources.

The controversy over railroad privatization, which began with the railroad strike last year, was a hot issue in South Korean society. However, this issue receded from public consciousness after the strike wound down and the government promised that it would not sell stock in the Suseo KTX line to the private sector.

“The people of Argentina have demonstrations about problems with the subway and power outages, but they long ago forgot what it is that they are supposed to be resisting. The themes of this movie are memory and oblivion: our tendency to relax once we deal with the problem right in front of us. If we don’t remember, trouble will loom in our future,” said Lee Hun-gyu, director of Black Deal.

When “Sicko” was released in 2008, netizens organized a petition urging the president to watch “Sicko” with the public. This was aimed at the Lee Myung-bak administration, which was busy trying to privatize South Korea’s medical industry. Because the Park Geun-hye administration has been bent on privatization even after the Sewol tragedy, “Black Deal” may prompt netizens to organize a similar petition.

“More than anyone else, I wish the president would see the film,” said Black Deal producer Go Young-jae.

But even before that, the South Korean people need to ask themselves - and try to answer - this question: “How are your public resources?”


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