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In a country where women’s fashions were long frozen in Soviet-style dowdiness, men watched intently as Pak strode through the library in her tight skirt, heels clacking on the concrete floors. “But the triangle relationship between Scarlett, Rhett Butler and Ashley, I didn’t like that,” she said.

The games that Scarlett learned in the whirl of plantation life _ to toy with men, to hide her intelligence, to dangle her sexuality _ reinforced the worst American stereotypes.

“I have to be loyal to my man, not be thinking of another man,” Pak said.

Guides at places like the Study House are groomed to interact with foreigners, and are well-versed sliding propaganda into conversations. Pak didn’t miss her chance.

“In my country,” she noted, pressing a button for the elevator, “the woman is more important in relationships.”

“Gone With the Wind” is one of the best-selling novels in modern history, and remains a talisman in the American South, where Mitchell’s vision of a lost aristocracy often pushes aside the complexities of Civil War history. It still sells about 50,000 copies worldwide every year, according to its publisher, Scribner.

When it was released, though, it sold copies by the million. It was popular from England to Nazi Germany to imperial Japan, which then occupied the entire Korean peninsula.

The book, which the Japanese probably brought to Korea in the 1930s, is thought to have largely disappeared from here by the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War. By then, the peninsula was firmly divided, many cities were shattered, and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, was building a Stalinist police state.

When the government suddenly ordered it translated and released in the mid-1990s, a time when North Korea’s all-important Soviet support had disappeared and famine was looming, it swept like a literary firestorm through Pyongyang. The book scene here has long been dominated by detective stories and romance novels riven with heavy-handed propaganda, and classic foreign novels like “Don Quixote.”

“For a while, you couldn’t have a conversation without talking about `Gone With the Wind,’” said the former Pyongyang TV trader, who spoke on condition he not be identified, fearing repercussions against relatives still living in the North.

Why it was published, though, remains unclear.

While Washington and Pyongyang are still technically at war, and hatred for the United States government is a constant in North Korean propaganda, American culture has always been quietly popular here. There are North Korean fans of everything from Mark Twain’s short stories to bootleg Schwarzenegger movies.

Some believe the decision to publish “Gone With the Wind” was meant as a symbolic peace offering from North Korea to the United States _ the two nations have sparred for years over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Others see it as an attempt by the government to teach its people about American culture, or at least Mitchell’s version of that culture.

Or perhaps it was an insult. “Gone With the Wind” is, in many ways, a celebration of how North Korea sees its own history: as a small, honorable nation that stood up to Washington.

“Mitchell’s depiction of U.S. soldiers as lecherous marauders is also a good fit with North Korean propaganda,” B.R. Myers, a North Korea scholar and professor at South Korea’s Dongseo University, said in an email.

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