North Korea has announced that it will switch to a new time zone to mark 70 years of liberation from the “imperialist” Japan. Though the time change has been welcomed by the country’s erratic leadership, it will present dire complications for the country’s foreign relations.
North Korea currently shares a time zone with Japan and South Korea. The time zone which is nine hours ahead of GMT, was imposed on the country by the Japanese colonialists in 1912.
The new time, Pyongyang Time, will see the Asian country move its clocks 30 minutes back and will commence on August 15. The date was chosen to commemorate 70 years of independence from Japanese rule.
The proposal to change to Pyongyang Time was debated and approved in Parliament on Wednesday and announced on Friday.
State controlled news agency KCNA said, "The wicked Japanese imperialists committed such unpardonable crimes as depriving Korea of even its standard time while mercilessly trampling down its land.”
The state agency reported the change showed "the unshakable faith and will of the service personnel and people on the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation."
The change to Pyongyang Time will present logistical problems for the country, as reported by the country’s Unification ministry, which is in charge of regional matters. Ministry spokesperson Jeong Joon-Hee said its ”Immediate effect would be that [the decision] would cause a bit of inconvenience when it comes to inter-Korean exchange such as entry/exit in and out of [the inter-Korean joined] Keasong Industrial Complex [on the northern side of the border]. In the long-term it would cause inconvenience for inter-Korean integration, unifying standards, and restoring homogeneity between North Korea and South Korea."
Observers have said the time shift was geared towards painting the North as an “authentic” and pure nation while painting the South as populated by foreign domination.
South Korea changed its time from Japanese standard time in 1954 but reverted later in 1961 when Park Chung Hee came to power through a military coup. The reversion by Park was fueled by the need to facilitate easier operational planning between the country and the U.S., one of its strong allies.
The move to change their time zone to Pyongyang time feeds into the North’s narrative of appearing authentic while the South is labelled a puppet state. The move, though welcome by the country’s leadership will present plenty of logistical challenges and make life even more challenging for the hermit kingdom.