The Idea of the Film Snowpiercer by Bong Joon-Ho

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The Idea Of The Film Snowpiercer By Bong Joon-Ho

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Economics is the basis of the distribution and allocation of the resources within society. The needs of the people are unlimited while the resources are limited. This produces the basic economic problem of scarcity (Greene 47). However, on the overall level scarcity means lack of resources to satisfy the needs of the consumers. On an individual, basis it might mean that the needs of some are satisfied while the needs of others are ignored. Thus, scarcity is not the problem for everyone.

Economic context of “Snowpiercer”

The film “Snowpiercer”, directed by Bong Joon-Ho, tells the story of the humanity that tried to solve the global warming problem by applying climate engineering. As a result, the experiment caused the new ice age that put all species, including people, on the brink of extinction. The last survivors were the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive train built by the transportation magnate. The train is a microcosm that demonstrates the structure of the society. The population of the train is stratified in a number of classes. People in the First Class, enjoy their life and lack nothing, while people in the end of the train dwell a pitiful life. Periodically, the low classes riot against the system. These riots are been suppressed. However, the last one ends up with the main hero’s reaching the head of the train, confronting the creator of the train and collapse of the whole system. In the end, only two people survive the accident and continue their life in the harsh conditions outside of the train. Therefore, the film depicts the inequality of income distribution in the society that might lead to social unrest and collapse of the whole system.

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Income Inequality

As it was mentioned above, scarcity is not the problem for everyone. Income inequality presumes that the limited number of people is receiving significant share of the available resources. The problem is not limited with income inequality. Lack of resources, access to education and healthcare, low technological development are the signs of unequal distribution of resources (Cowell et al 4). However, one might say that inequality existed since the dawn of the humanity than should it be a problem.

In fact, in the modern economic system high profit is often associated with high efficiency. Therefore, attempts to equalize the income may reduce the incentive of the market participants to earn high income and thus to be more efficient (Baumol et al 453). However, efficiency is part of the competition and competition is hardly contributing to inequality. The essence of the problem is more in the exploitation of the labor of others. It this situation exploitation would mean a direct underpayment thus disruption of the market mechanism of the allocation of resources. Besides, the increasing international exchange is often claimed to be inherently exploitative. Globalization, outsourcing and internationalization is seen as the ways to exploit the cheap labor to gain additional profit. However, the empirical results show that the international exchange decreases the global inequality (Firebaugh 21). Therefore, the problem of the inequality is based on exploitation rather than redistribution of profit.

Regulatory redistribution of profit in the society was the core idea of communism and socialism. These ideologies consider inequality unacceptable in any form. However, practical implementation of the ideas still created a situation of the inequality of distribution of resources. The level of inequality of distribution of resources in communist South Korea is the same as in other countries of the world. However, Scandinavian countries demonstrate very low level of inequality due to efficient application of the market mechanisms to regulate the distribution (Caringella et al 265). Therefore, use of force to initiate the redistribution of resources does not bring any benefit to the society overall.

Income Inequality in the Film

People who travel on the train belong to different classes and their level of income (i.e. amount of available resources differs). It might seem that the situation is unfair. However, on the day of apocalypse the owner of the train allowed people to enter the tail of the train and supplied them while the train was running. However, it is doubtful whether this situation correspond to the economic definition of the income inequality. First, poor passengers did not contribute to the creation of the train. They did not invest nor did they buy the tickets. Second, they were not contributing to the existing society. The train was autonomous and was able to supply the passengers with certain amount of food and water. Therefore, poor passengers did not have to work. It as well means that they were not exploited. Nobody used their labor to benefit from it. The only thing the train needs is children who perform the maintenance of the engine. Children are the only people able to operate in the limited space of the engine. However, they are as well the only people from this class who have a right to claim the proper treatment and resources. Besides, it was unclear what happened to them once they grew up. In case their work presumed becoming the elite of the train, it could have been a fair payment for their labor. Nevertheless, all poor passengers initiated a riot that cased significant damage to the systems of the train and resulted in a complete collapse of the system.

The idea of the film is quite clear. It aims to demonstrate the noble class struggle for equality. However, the demand something one should contribute first. In this case, those who did no contribution tried to benefit from the investments of others. This approach is closer to communism than to market regulation that would have ensured efficiency. Moreover, the victory the poor would not guarantee that the resources would have been distributed equally. The feeling of revenge could have made the poor to deprive the ex-elite of the resources and doom for the miserable life in the tail instead of sharing the resources. Therefore, the economic concept of inequality was only partially presented in the film. The provided view does not reflect the actual state of affairs in the global economy.

Works cited

  1. Greene, J. (Year). Title of the Book. Publisher.
  2. Cowell, F., Karagiannaki, E., & McKnight, A. (Year). An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK. Oxford University Press.
  3. Baumol, W. J., Blinder, A. S., & Litan, R. E. (Year). Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity. Yale University Press.
  4. Firebaugh, G. (Year). The New Geography of Global Income Inequality. Harvard University Press.
  5. Caringella, F., de Pinto, M., & Mauro, L. (Year). The Role of Regulation in Global Economic Governance: Insights from the European Union and the United States. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  6. Bong Joon-Ho (Director). (Year). Snowpiercer [Film]. Production Company.
  7. United Nations Development Programme. (Year). Human Development Report. Retrieved from
  8. Stiglitz, J. E. (Year). The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future. W. W. Norton & Company.
  9. Piketty, T. (Year). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Harvard University Press.
  10. Saez, E., & Zucman, G. (Year). The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay. W. W. Norton & Company.

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