N. Korea cel­e­brates new time zone

The China Post - - ASIA - BY ERIC TAL­MADGE

North Korea now has time zone.

Bells were rung in Py­ongyang and cel­e­bra­tions held at mid­night as the na­tion’s clocks were set back 30 min­utes to mark the Aug. 15, 1945 an­niver­sary of the Korean Penin­sula’s lib­er­a­tion from colo­nial rule at the end of World War II.

Pre­vi­ously, both Koreas and Ja­pan shared the same time zone, nine hours ahead of GMT, which was es­tab­lished un­der Ja­pan’s 1910-1945 colo­nial rule.

North Korea’s de­ci­sion to change its time zone, an­nounced last week, came as a sur­prise even to South Korea, whose pres­i­dent crit­i­cized Py­ongyang for not co­or­di­nat­ing the move with Seoul.

But the ef­fort to erase the legacy of the colo­nial pe­riod res­onates with many Kore­ans on both sides of the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone who re­mem­ber the harsh rule of the

its own Ja­panese and con­tinue to har­bor deep re­sent­ment to­ward Tokyo.

“This is a great event in the history of the Korean na­tion, as it is of great sig­nif­i­cance in com­pletely erad­i­cat­ing the leftovers of the Ja­panese im­pe­ri­al­ists in all fab­rics of so­cial life,” the North’s state-run Korean Cen­tral News Agency said in a com­men­tary ear­lier this week.

The new time zone, which North Korea calls “Py­ongyang Time,” was adopted by the then-uni­fied Korea in 1908, but changed to the Ja­panese time zone on Jan. 1, 1912, two years af­ter the penin­sula was col­o­nized. South Korea briefly re­vived the time old zone from 1954 to 1961, while North Korea stuck with the Ja­panese zone un­til now.

Py­ongyang’s de­ci­sion to cre­ate a 30-minute dif­fer­ence in time is un­usual but not un­prece­dented. Coun­tries such as In­dia, Iran and Myan­mar have half-hour dif­fer­ences from their neigh­bors. Nepal has a 45-minute lag.

Jong Sok, chief as­tronomer at the Py­ongyang Ob­ser­va­tory, said the change suits North Korea’s nat­u­ral con­di­tions.

“With the time stan­dard that we have used up un­til now, the time when the sun is at its high­est po­si­tion is not cor­rectly noon,” he told an AP tele­vi­sion news crew in an in­ter­view. “I think it is the law­ful right of a sov­er­eign state that our re­pub­lic, to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of our lib­er­a­tion and the 70th an­niver­sary of the de­feat of Ja­panese im­pe­ri­al­ism, has an­nounced our time as Py­ongyang Time, the same as our an­ces­tors used and which was robbed from us by the Ja­panese im­pe­ri­al­ists.”

Time zones were first pro­posed in the 19th cen­tury as global travel and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­came more im­por­tant. They were stan­dard­ized in the early 20th cen­tury around Green­wich Mean Time, named af­ter the merid­ian which runs through an ob­ser­va­tory in the Lon­don bor­ough of Green­wich.

In us­ing clocks to make a po­lit­i­cal state­ment, North Korea may be bor­row­ing a page from the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party play­book. China stretches 5,000 kilo­me­ters (3,100 miles) from east to west. But af­ter tak­ing power in 1949, the Com­mu­nists put the whole coun­try on Bei­jing Time as a means of em­pha­siz­ing their con­trol.

AP

Men in tra­di­tional out­fits ring a bell to mark the new time zone dur­ing a cer­e­mony in Py­ongyang, Satur­day, Aug. 15.

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