[Herald Review] Inconvenient truth of ‘Black Deal’

By Korea Herald

Probing crowd-funded documentary deals with aftermath of measures to privatize public enterprises

  • Published : Jun 23, 2014 - 20:31
  • Updated : Jun 23, 2014 - 20:31
A heated debate on privatization raged in Korea last year. Supporters argued that it could provide increased efficiency and better quality, reducing the government’s deficit and losses. Opponents countered that the mandate to make a profit could deteriorate service quality, and cause increased costs and inequality among consumers.

Privatization, which is linked to economic theories and policies, has become a complicated matter with layers of implications. People are interested in it, but often get lost in the middle of the discussion or end up just ignoring the issue.

The inconvenient truths about the complex yet important issue of privatization are probed in the documentary “Black Deal” in a more practical manner that affects people’s day to day lives. 
An illustration depicting the privatization of waterworks in the documentary “Black Deal.” (Indieplug)

The documentary takes a strong, politically liberal position against privatization, favoring the universal public good. However, even for viewers who are in favor of privatization for its economic efficiency, this film is worth watching for its accurate portrayal of the issue through its review of cases in other countries. Germany, England, France, Chile, Argentina and Japan are all living with the consequences of privatization. These countries don’t have a cure-all answer to the problem, but the film compels audiences to reflect on how privatization will affect their lives in the future.

“I wanted to find questions rather than an answer to this issue,” said director Lee Hun-gyu. “My ultimate question has become ‘Is this system for the people?’ After observing the aftermath of privatizations in other countries, I concluded that it is people’s role to find the answer to this debate.”

Lee stays behind the camera and lets peoples of other countries tell the story of the consequences.

Japan has been cited as a successful case of railroad privatization. However, when the camera focused on the reality behind the railroad surplus, only a few major city train lines were profitable, while the majority of lines were facing major deficits. Some people had to leave their villages because there was no longer train service to a city.

Twenty years have passed in England since railroad privatization was set in motion. However, British rail fairs have gone up, while safety and service have deteriorated. When trains stop inside a tunnel, no passengers complain because they are so used to it.

“Argentina and Chile are at the point of no return,” said Lee.

Both countries underwent a rigorous privatization program in the 1990s, including water, electricity, waterworks, railroads and primary education. Right after Argentina’s railroad was privatized, the trains were not only wearing out but the number of accidents at Once Station increased exponentially, taking the lives of many citizens.

“Argentina was the biggest concern out of all the countries,” said Lee. “Argentinian people used to take the issue to the street and protest. But they soon started to forget what and whom they were resisting. They stopped questioning the tyranny of companies that took public goods away because they were too caught up with agendas on their table.”

“The tragedy starts when people start to forget what they are fighting for,” Lee added. “Korea’s future can be (similar to the cases of) one or all of the six countries combined.”

“Black Deal” was produced through crowdfunding. It is a rare milestone for a Korean documentary film to be screened in theaters. The documentary will open in theaters on July 3 after completing VIP previews in eight different cities in Korea.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)