Skip to navigationSkip to content

North Korea is establishing its own time zone by turning back the clocks 30 minutes

Reuters/Jason Lee
Yes, that’s right, back 30 minutes exactly.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

North Korea is turning its clocks back by 30 minutes to establish its own “Pyongyang time,” according to the official Korean News Central Agency (KCNA). By doing so, the country returns to the time zone used throughout the peninsula before Japanese rule, when colonial authorities ruled that Korea change its time zone to follow Tokyo’s in 1912.

“The wicked Japanese imperialists committed such unpardonable crimes as depriving Korea of even its standard time while mercilessly trampling down on its land,” the report in KCNA said.

North Korea’s current time is nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, the same as in South Korea and Japan. South Korea has said that it will continue to use its current time zone because it is more practical.

For North Korea, the move is particularly impractical, especially for workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint economic zone where workers from both Koreas are employed. Predecessors of the country’s young leader Kim Jong-un are not known to have considered a time change, according to Adam Cathcart, a specialist in North Korea and Chinese affairs at Leeds University in the United Kingdom.

“Obviously this creates yet another chaotic element in inter-Korean relations…in terms of long-term unification. So just when you thought things couldn’t get any more complicated, they are,” Cathcart tells Quartz over email. “Declaring this change as having some connection to North Korea’s ongoing and perpetual liberation from Japanese imperialism seems to be simple justification for imposing yet another official means of placing North Korea outside of the global system, normal trade and intercourse with its neighboring states.”

Pyongyang time will go into effect on Aug. 15, which marks 70 years since the peninsula’s freedom from Japanese rule.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.