North Korea Preloads Gone With the Wind E-Book onto Official Tablet

Yes! North Korea never ceases to amaze me. Apparently, in lieu of iPads, North Korea offers an official internet-free tablet, the Samjiyon, which comes pre-loaded with state-approved games and books. One of the books preloaded onto the tablet is… drumroll please… Gone With the Wind. Classic!

And by the way, Gone With the Wind the movie is illegal in North Korea, though it is used by government officials to teach English to diplomats. (Why do they need diplomats?) This explains the curious habit North Korean officials have for quoting lines from the movie during negotiations. Telegraph reports:

The movie, forbidden to the general public but beloved by the former dictator and movie buff, Kim Jong Il, is sometimes used in English-language programs to train elite government officials. North Korean negotiators meeting with U.S. envoys would occasionally quote from it, once replying to American criticism with the quote (which perfectionists might note is slightly off from the book and the movie): “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”

The book Gone With the Wind, which is legal for lowly citizens to read, is hugely popular in North Korea for reasons hidden from most mortal minds, though the author from the Telegraph had some ideas:

Ambitious young North Korean women, raised amid deeply entrenched sexism, find inspiration in Scarlett’s rise from ruin. Men revel in the muscularity of her swashbuckling love, Rhett Butler. People struggling with a lack of heat in winter, or political infighting, or the everyday pain of a marriage gone to hell can disappear into Mitchell’s story.

The e-book version of it on the Samjiyon includes a state-certified introduction indicating the book’s great importance for understanding the contemporary United States. The introduction casts the War Between the States as a sort of socialist revolution—“a struggle between the bourgeoisie of the North and the landowners of the South.” This is odd, since the main protagonist of the novel is a Southern female capitalist. And the book most definitely defends the justice and beauty of the old aristocratic South. Perhaps North Korean officials have just capitulated to the book’s popularity but also wanted to have an official-sounding reason for including it on the Samjiyon. Hard to say. One way or the other, this is a fascinating tidbit from a country that is largely closed to our eyes.