In a bizarre move that North Korean state media call a break from “imperialism,” the nation will soon switch to a new time zone. While North Korea is currently in the same zone as South Korea and Japan, “Pyongyang time” will see the clocks turned back 30 minutes Aug. 15 — the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.

The New York Times explains:

The current time on the peninsula — nine hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time — was set by Japan. North Korean public pronouncements can be as virulently anti-Japanese as they are anti-American, so it was natural that the clock change would be billed as throwing off a hated vestige of colonial domination.

“The wicked Japanese imperialists committed such unpardonable crimes as depriving Korea of even its standard time,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said on Friday.

South Korea has its own historical grudges with Japan, but the time of day is not one of them. Jeong Joon-hee, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry in the South, said that following Pyongyang’s lead now would be confusing and expensive for a country that, unlike the North, is thoroughly integrated with the global economy.

Mr. Jeong said the time change in the North would probably create only minor communication problems, notably at the inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong, where South Korean managers oversee North Korean workers. But down the road, he said, “this will disrupt our efforts to integrate the South and the North and restore our homogeneity.”

Japan is widely resented on both sides of the border, but the North enshrines its hostility toward Japanese and other foreign “imperialists” in its Constitution and puts the resentment at the core of the country’s ruling philosophy of “juche,” or self-reliance. The founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, fought as a guerrilla against the Japanese before independence.

Mr. Kim died in 1994, and his grandson Kim Jong-un runs the country now, doing whatever he can to highlight his ancestry, even imitating his grandfather’s hairstyle and the way he held his cigarettes. His grandfather’s rhetorical themes are invoked to justify policies like maintaining an enormous military and developing nuclear weapons.

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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