North Korea’s New Time Zone – Is It a Big Deal?

Korea announced on August 7th that it will create its own time zone when it pulls back its current standard time by 30 minutes. The switch to the new time zone will occur on August 15th – the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from the Japanese at the end of World War II. The establishment of “Pyongyang time” will be8.5 hours ahead of GMT instead of 9 hours ahead like South Korea and Japan.

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“The wicked Japanese imperialists committed such unpardonable crimes as depriving Korea of even its standard time while mercilessly trampling down its land with 5,000-year-long history and culture and pursuing the unheard-of policy of obliterating the Korean nation,” is the reason given by the North Korean Central News Agency.

It is believed that this is an attempt for young leader, Kim Jong Un to bolster leadership and gain popularity by using the anti-Japan, nationalistic sentiments. A large majority of Koreans, young and old and on both sides of the border still has bitterness against Japan over Korea’s colonial occupations. During the war, hundreds of thousands were forced by the Japanese to fight as soldiers, work as slave laborers or serve as prostitutes.

Even though this is North Korea’s political jab at Japan, they are not the only nation to have anomalous time zones. Nepal is one of them at 5.45 hours ahead of GMT and 15 minutes ahead of Delhi. In 1956, Kathmandu adopted Nepal’s time zone in 1956 to balance its involvement with western and eastern worlds.

As recent as 2011, Samao didn’t change its time zone, but its date, skipping December 30th and jumping a day ahead to December 31. The move was economic to synchronize Samoa’s dateline with that of New Zealand and Australia, its two primary trading partners.

In the end, there is no governing body for allowing or banning time zone changes, so for now they are accepted by the world. Any sovereign state can make their own changes for political, economic, or any other reasons possible. Until it becomes a problem, most likely, no one will step in to say this has to end.

However, this will still be a nuisance for South Korea. Unification Ministry official Jeong Joon-Hee said, “In the longer term, there may be some fallout for efforts to unify standards and reduce differences between the two sides.” For a nation that is already lacking friendly relations, North Korea is further distancing itself even further.

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