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Battle GroundMoon Bo-young

『Battle Ground』

Author : Moon Bo-young
Publisher : Hyundae Munhak
Publication date : August 31, 2019
Number of pages : 136
Format : 104x182mm
ISBN : 9788972751182

Moon Bo-young

Poet. Made her debut through Korea Joongang Daily. Received the 36th Kim Su-young Prize for Literature with her poetry collection Columns of Books in 2016. She has published two collections of prose The Most Affection Way to Hate Someone and The Half-Best Long Run.

A World So Alien yet Familiar


Battle Ground, the title of this poetry collection, is also the name of an online game that uses guns to fight enemies, as with most FPS (first-person shooter) games (English title: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds). All the pieces in this collection of poetry share one universe. The one subtle difference is that the goal in Moon’s work is not to kill as many other players as possible as it is in the game, but merely to last as long as one possibly can under the circumstances. Indeed, the surest way to become the last survivor would be to dispose of all the others. Nonetheless, it is possible to remain the last person standing without getting blood on one’s hands. The rules of this universe are as follows: 100 players are dropped on an island with no possible escape route. The island is segmented into different areas, and the player can choose the spot they will be dropped in by parachute.

Areas with plenty of useful supplies and weapons that will aid you to proceed rapidly in the game will draw a lot of competition, but other areas will be less densely populated. Which means, by giving up the ambition to dominate others, the participants might be able to build their own realms in separate corners of this world to enjoy long lives.

There is another factor to consider, however, as this universe does not allow the players such an easy way out. The system involves what is called the “circle” and the “magnetic field.” Simply put, one must stay within the circle to enjoy the safety zone. Outside of the circle are magnetic fields that signal danger for the players. “If you stay for too long outside of the circle, your strength will diminish.” If you continue to stay there, “In the end you fall sick and die” (“The Circle,” Battle Ground). In order not to fall ill or die, the player must struggle to remain within the circle. The draw is that as time passes, the circle continues to shrink, and the player will be forced into battles while trying to stay in the circle. In order to survive the tough competition, the player must make the choice either to obtain the supplies offered by the system, or become a scavenger of the dead bodies of the other players to overpower other survivors. Then, does this mean that this is a world where there is no premise of discord between the entities and the world they reside in, where there is not even a possibility to reject its world view?

If all the conditions and restrictions that are forced upon its members are resolved, then would the world more closely resemble the ideal of harmony and peacefulness that we all so ardently anticipate? Laclau, Mouffe and Žižek, when discussing the concept of antagonism, concluded that the embodiment of antagonism that we assume, should be removed in order to achieve peace or revolution, and it is, in fact, the very condition that keeps revolution possible. They use Marx’s vision as an example. Marx interpreted antagonism as an alienation that could be resolved. He claimed the ultimate revolution could be achieved when laborers were no longer alienated from capital or from their own labor, in short, with complete annihilation of alienation. For Laclau, Mouffe and Žižek, Marx’s failure is the result of his effort to eliminate the very condition that functioned as the driving force behind society and made revolution possible. According to them, any attempt to exterminate all discord within a world will always inevitably end up a failure. Let us borrow the formation of this theory for a minute. If we were already part of this universe from the moment we found ourselves alienated from it, then, within this world where “those who do not fall to the ground are deemed as having no interest in joining the game;” and, there is no possible way of changing the rules of this world where one “begins by falling” (“Desert Map,” Battle Ground); then, the poet who claims she knows “how to enjoy one’s alienated state” (“The Circle,” Battle Ground), is perhaps trying to turn that inevitable fall into a moment of flight. That may not be a revolution or a subversion in a fundamental sense, but it would be a poetic overturning that rearranges the inevitable sensory experiences and the perceptions of a brutal battle ground.

The somewhat experimental project of presenting an entire collection of poetry with a single theme of a game seems to have been an extraordinarily good match with the platform where the collection was introduced. This selection, where they publish a smaller number of poems than is usual or essays with particular themes, made it possible for the poet to build a vividly colored, well-centered world. This collection depicts a world that is foreign in both its format and content. We may pose further questions on why this world feels alien to us, and what it has in common with our world, and what differences. We may be able to achieve another layer of understanding into ourselves by comprehending the other world that had, albeit transiently, overlapped with ours.


By Cho Dae-han
Literary critic

Translated by