North Koreans are a mystery. And that's perhaps why whenever we see brief glimpses of their wacky roller coasters or their version of "Gangnam Style," we immediately add those details to our still-developing profiles of these mystery people. We're still digesting the news today that North Koreans really love Gone with the Wind. The AP's Tim Sullivan tries to make sense of it all, throwing all kinds of theories up against the wall, from a narrative of how antebellum life in Atlanta is like Pyongyang, to stories of secret feminism, to a slave narrative. "In North Korea only the strong survive ... That's the most compelling message of the novel," a former NoKo black marketer told Sullivan. "The weak perish in `Gone With the Wind,' ... That is something that North Koreans understand," he added. Okay, we'll buy that.
Although Sullivan points out that the book sells 50,000 per year and with North Korea being the evasive, censored country that it is, it will be a long time before we find out how many copies of the book are actually in circulation there. According to the Korea's Joongang Daily in 2001, Gone With the Wind was "published in three volumes by the North Korean Literature and Art General Publishing Company at a bookstore in North Korea." The novel was also cited as a favorite in 2010 by the Korea Times, when the paper reported on the rumors that North Korea was dabbling into electronic books. And the movie version of the novel was mentioned by the Chosunilbo news outlet in 2010 as a popular movie among North Korea's elite. So yes, it's probably not a coincidence or some fleeting dalliance—North Koreans really, really love Gone With the Wind. And before we laugh at the idea of North Koreans swooning, getting misty-eyed for Civil War-era Atlanta, and figuring out what their literary tastes mean ... let's just remind ourselves that our top three best-selling fiction paperbacks are all 50 Shades of something, and that two spots in the top-five best-selling books (combined e-books and print) belong to 50 Shades.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.