Py­ongyang’s change in time zone im­prac­ti­cal

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

In an abrupt move not un­usual for the iso­lated North Korean regime, its of­fi­cial news agency said Fri­day that the com­mu­nist state would push back its stan­dard time by 30 min­utes start­ing Aug. 15.

“The wicked Ja­panese im­pe­ri­al­ists com­mit­ted such un­par­don­able crimes as de­priv­ing Korea of even its stan­dard time,” the Korean Cen­tral News Agency said in an­nounc­ing the mea­sure to take ef­fect on the 70th an­niver­sary of the end of Ja­pan’s colo­nial rule over the penin­sula.

Cur­rently, South and North Korea use the stan­dard time set un­der the colo­nial pe­riod to place the penin­sula in the same time zone as Ja­pan.

North Korea’s latest move seems to re­flect its leader Kim Jong Un’s in­ten­tion to demon­strate his grip on power and dom­i­nate the agenda of re­mov­ing colo­nial lega­cies in a land­mark year that also marks the 70th an­niver­sary of Korea’s di­vi­sion into the South and the North. In 1954, the South adopted a stan­dard time sim­i­lar to that an­nounced by the North but re­turned to the cur­rent one in 1961 be­cause of prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits such as day­light sav­ings and con­ve­niences in do­ing busi­ness with for­eign coun­tries.

Py­ongyang’s move to push back its stan­dard time, which it has con­tin­u­ously used over the past seven decades, will fur­ther deepen its ec­cen­tric and re­cal­ci­trant im­age in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. The forecast by ex­perts that the de­ci­sion will bring no sig­nif­i­cant costs or in­con­ve­niences to the North shows how in­su­lated the im­pov­er­ished regime is from the out­side world.

The time dif­fer­ence may still cause some dif­fi­cul­ties in in­terKorean ex­changes, par­tic­u­larly flows of per­son­nel and goods to and from a joint in­dus­trial park in Gae­seong north of the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone. Of­fi­cials from Seoul and Py­ongyang may hag­gle over which side’s stan­dard time to use in ar­rang­ing meet­ings and other events be­tween the Koreas.

The North should have had prior con­sul­ta­tions with the South on chang­ing its stan­dard time. If so, the two sides could have dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of jointly re­vis­ing their stan­dard time in the long term.

It is de­plorable that the two Koreas are be­ing di­vided in time as well as in space as they are urged to im­prove longstrained ties on the oc­ca­sion of the land­mark an­niver­sary.

Pres­i­dent Park Geun- hye’s gov­ern­ment in Seoul needs to be more proac­tive in mak­ing a break­through in stalled in­terKorean talks. It is hoped that her up­com­ing Lib­er­a­tion Day speech will in­clude bolder ges­tures to­ward Py­ongyang. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by The Korea Her­ald on Aug. 10.

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