North Korea, which was already out of sync with much of the world, announced last Friday that it would take that a step further. The isolated, authoritarian country said it would create its own time zone–“Pyongyang time”–and set its clocks 30 minutes behind those of South Korea and Japan.
The change is to go into effect on Aug. 15, the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, which liberated a then-unified Korea from decades of Japanese colonial rule. Anti-Japanese resentment runs deep in the Koreas, but the North enshrines hostility toward Japanese and other foreign “imperialists” in its Constitution, and it forms the core of the country’s ruling philosophy of “juche,” or self-reliance. North Korea traces its birth as an independent nation to its founder, Kim Il-sung, who like other Korean peasants engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Japanese.
Kim Il-sung, a godlike figure among North Koreans, is the grandfather of Kim Jong-un, the current leader. Since taking power in 2011, Kim Jong-un has been striving to highlight his ties to his grandfather, emphasizing his grandfather’s themes of self-reliance and dignity.
Chang Yong-seok, a North Korea expert at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, saw the North’s time change as a reiteration of those themes for domestic consumption.
For years, North Korea has even been on a different calendar from both South Korea and the rest of the world. In 1997, it adopted a “juche” calendar based on the year Kim Il-sung was born, 1912. According to official documents, and much of the North’s population, this is the year 104.
[New York Times]