North Korea to return to same time zone as South Korea on May 5
Following the two Korean leaders’ agreement to unify the time zones used in the South and North, Pyongyang’s parliament promptly fulfilled the promise made by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, its state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Monday.
The Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly ― which has the same status as the South Korean National Assembly ― announced that it will adopt the time zone UTC+9, moving the nation’s time zone 30 minutes forward.
“The new time zone will be applied beginning May 5. To implement the decision, the Cabinet and authorities will come up with countermeasures,” the statement read.
The decree came after the South’s presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan unveiled North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s remarks in a press briefing, Sunday. During the summit, Friday, Kim offered to unify the time systems between the two Koreas, according to Yoon.
“I feel sad to see that there are two clocks hung on the wall of the Peace House, one for Seoul time and the other for Pyongyang time,” Kim was quoted as saying by Yoon. “Since it is us who changed the time standard, we will return to the original one. You can make it public,” Kim added.
The KCNA explained that Kim’s decision aims at reconciliation and integration between the two distinctive systems, saying the unification is more than just an ambiguous declaration.
Yoon hailed the decision, saying the North has to endure administrative difficulties and costs. “The decision shows Kim’s determination to remove obstacles in exchanges with the South and the U.S., as well as to expand its accord with international society,” said Yoon.
In the long run, however, the time zone unification would promote the North’s interests. For example, using the same time zone could facilitate the creation of a joint economic bloc, as well as inter-Korean economic exchanges including the Mount Geumgang tourism initiative and a railroad across the peninsula ― which are expected to kick off after the denuclearization process.
“Despite the social costs, there will be some benefits as well,” unification ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said Monday. “The ministry thinks the North considered various factors.”
The rival Koreas used to use the same time zone until Aug. 15, 2015. The change came one day after the landmine explosion incident in the demilitarized zone, Aug. 4, when the tension between the Koreas reached a boiling point.
The Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly made the decision under the pretext of eradicating vestiges of the Japanese imperialism. The UTC+9 time system ― based on the Japanese east longitude of 135 degrees ― was introduced to the Korean peninsula in 1912 under Japanese colonial rule. The Korean peninsula is located at 127 degrees East Longitude.
Some lawmakers had submitted bills to ditch the trace of colonial rule, but experts point out that a 30-minute time difference with neighboring countries would be cumbersome.