As one of the most reclusive countries in the world, North Korea’s time zone has been shrouded in mystery and often mythologized in western countries. It’s one of the most talked-about topics surrounding the nation, alongside its nuclear arsenal, human rights abuses, and closed-off economy. It’s this same complexity and intriguing quality that drew me to want to explore what time zone North Korea is in – and more importantly, why.
Pyongyang Time is the standard time zone for North Korea, and it is officially 8 1/2 hours ahead of UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time. By calculating this, it places the country in the time zone UTC+8:30—but the time zone itself is not technically recognized anywhere else in the world.
North Korea has a unique relationship with time. In fact, it is one of the only countries that remains on the same time zone all year round, despite the fact that the practice of switching to daylight savings time, or summer time, was officially introduced to the country in 1967. North Korea did, on a brief period, consider moving to two-tiered ‘Korean Standard Time’ and ‘Korean Summer Time’, but never fully implemented it, citing the burden of implementing such a change outweighed the potential benefit.
The origin of North Korea’s time zone is closely linked to the Japanese Empire and Japanese Colonial Rule. Prior to 1945, the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule, and it was during this era where North Korea inherited its current timezone. At the time, Japan had a local time zone set at 9 hours ahead of UTC, and current-day North Korea simply maintained this time zone after 1945.
Another reason for North Korea’s reluctance to change their time zone is their historically strained relationship with other states – due to their unique time zone, North Korea would be out of sync with their neighbour’s time zone, South Korea, as well as their ally China, making it difficult to conduct business and diplomatic meetings.
North Korea’s Unique Relationship with Time
North Korea has a unique relationship with time and its citizens are expected to conform to strict timekeeping standards. For instance, performance or production quotas can be imposed on citizens for even the most mundane tasks – for example, a maximum time for walking to reach a specific destination or location.
These strict timekeeping standards have given North Korea the nickname, ‘The Country Without a Clock’, due to its citizens being denied the ability to have clocks in their homes. Those found to be in possession of a clock or watch can face serious consequences, such as prison sentences or even execution.
This lack of access to clocks and watches, however, has also allowed North Korean citizens to develop a more instinctive relationship with time. Instead of making timetables and keeping track of the minutes and hours with a clock, many work and live according to the movement of the sun and their body’s natural biorhythms. It’s a way of life that has been passed down through the generations, and even taken root in the North Korean culture in some way.
When it comes to public perception of North Korea’s time zone, the country doesn’t get much attention. Despite the fact that it has a unique time zone, it is rarely ever mentioned or discussed outside of North Korea.
For some, it’s not even considered a real time zone – it’s viewed as an eccentricity of the reclusive nation and largely ignored. This is somewhat ironic, given that North Korea has the longest-lasting time zone of any country in the world, with the same time zone being used for the past 70 years.
In essence, North Korea’s time zone is widely viewed as an irrelevant and quirky oddity – a relic of a bygone era in the history of the nation. While it may not be widely discussed or used, North Korea’s time zone is an important example of the country’s isolationism and its resistance to change.
North Korea’s time zone has had an impact on the everyday life of its citizens. Due to the country’s isolationism, the population is largely cut off from the outside world and as a result, have developed their own unique interpretations and customs around time.
The traditional Korean seasonal festivals and holidays, for instance, are often celebrated according to the lunar calendar. This was further ingrained in North Korean culture after the Korean War, when the dates for public holidays, such as the Day of the Sun, were decided based on the lunar calendar.
Similarly, North Korean calendar weeks are split into four days, with Thursday being treated as a ‘rest day’. During this day, North Koreans are not expected to be productive and are instead encouraged to rest and spend time with friends and family.
The influence of North Korea’s time zone is also evident in the country’s entertainment industry. North Korean films, television shows, and music are all often centered around North Korean culture and to on some level, reflect the values of the North Korean people.
Overall, North Korea’s time zone is an intriguing example of the country’s unique relationship with time and its ability to remain cut off from the rest of the world. It’s a bizarre and often ignored time zone which has nevertheless had a societal and cultural impact on the people of North Korea over the years.