North Korea: Why the hermit kingdom has established its own time zone

North Korea says it will pull back its current standard time by 30 minutes, a move that will allow it to differentiate its time zone from that of Japan and South Korea.

Ng Han Guan/Associated Press
A North Korean waitress walks through a door under a clock with Chinese emblems at a restaurant in Rason city in North Korea, Aug. 29, 2011. North Korea said Friday that it will establish its own time zone next week by pulling back its current standard time by 30 minutes.

North Korea is known for being one of the most isolated countries in the world, and now it’s going to operate with its very own time zone, too.

On Friday, the reclusive state announced that it will turn back its current standard time by 30 minutes, a move that will allow it to differentiate its time zone from that of Japan and South Korea.

The time zone currently used by Pyongyang and Seoul was established by Japan during its rule over a unified Korea from 1910 to 1945. But even after the Japanese defeat in World War II and a conflict that left the peninsula divided between two combative states, Koreans continued to use Japanese time.

The establishment of "Pyongyang time" is meant to “root out the legacy of the Japanese colonial period”, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported Friday.

"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," the KCNA dispatch said.

Despite the brutality of the Japanese colonial occupation, South Koreans say they will continue to use the Japanese time zone because it conforms to international practice. Most world time zones offset Coordinated Universal Time by a whole number of hours.

But Pyongyong has long touted itself as an independent nation that cares little for, and is often antagonistic towards, the outside world.

“The roughly 24 million people who live in the totalitarian state have minimal interaction with the outside world. Foreign media is forbidden, interaction with tourists is strictly controlled, and the Internet is inaccessible to almost everyone. BBC journalists who visited the country in 2010 found that university students had never heard of Nelson Mandela,” the Huffington Post reported last year.  

The new time zone will take effect August 15, marking the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese rule at the end of World War II. The time zone Pyongyang will adopt is the same one a unified Korea used prior to the Japanese colonial occupation in 1910. 

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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