North Korea announced it will change its standard time by half an hour later this month, the Korean Central News Agency reported Friday.
North Korea is planning to change its standard time to UTC+8.5, a half hour behind the current Korean Standard Time, and will refer to it as Pyongyang Time. The change will be implemented on August 15, the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender to the Allies in World War II and, consequently, Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule.
The current standard time in both Koreas, often referred to as Korean Standard Time (KST) is UTC+9, that is, nine hours ahead of Coordinate Universal Time. UTC refers to the modern standard time at the Prime Meridian or the zero degrees longitude line and was known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) before 1960. Time zones are expressed as an offset from UTC.
Pyongyang says that the current time in Korea, imposed by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea, is based on the longitude of 135 degrees east and is appropriate for Japan, not Korea. The proposed Pyongyang Time of UTC+8.5 is said to be based on the longitude of 127.5 degrees east, which passes through the Korean Peninsula.
Korea first adopted a Western-style standardize time zone in 1908. Then known as the Korean Empire, Korea first set its standard time as GMT+8.5, that is, eight hours and 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and in 1912 the Japanese changed Korea’s time zone to GMT+9 to match that of Japan. Both Koreas initially kept using this time, though South Korea switched back to GMT+8.5 from 1954 until 1961, at which time they reverted to UTC+9 (as it became known after 1960).
North Korea’s state media characterized the time change as part of reversing the effects of the Japanese occupation of Korea.
“The wicked Japanese imperialists committed such unpardonable crimes as depriving Korea of even its standard time,” KCNA wrote.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification spokesperson Chung Joon-hee, however, said that South Korea’s standard time is based on practicality and does not follow the Japanese.
“The ROK government is not following Japan Time, but as the Korean Peninsula is in the middle between China and Japan, it is more practical to follow the eastern side of country as it saves daylight time during the days,” said Chung. “Current ROK time has nothing to do with the Japanese way of life, as North Korea pointed out as the reason for changing the current time, but it is just more practical regarding the international standard.”
The change of North Korea’s time will result in a time difference between North and South Korea and will potentially result in complications. Government officials and others who routinely communicate or otherwise deal with people in both Koreas will need to account for the time difference. People who work at the Kaesong Industrial Complex will have to deal with moving back and forth between the two time zones. Additionally, the time difference could potentially cause a miscommunication when one side notifies the other in advance of a military drill or test near the border.
In addition to those conducting communications or business between the two Koreas, news agencies and other organizations who report on Korea will now need to either choose which time zone to use, depending on the situation, or include both time zones in their coverage.
J.H. Ahn contributed to this report.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons
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