North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a country located in East Asia, with its capital city as Pyongyang. North Korea is bordered by South Korea, Russia, and China. North Korea has a population of over 25 million people and its official language is Korean.
North Korea is a single-party state, and time in this country is officially tracked by the Korean Standard Time (KST). This time is 8 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+8). KST is considered to be the same time as its neighboring country, South Korea.
History of KST
North Korea first adopted standard time zones in 1908 during its period of Japanese rule. Back then, the people followed the Japanese timezone, which is UTC+9. After Korea’s independence, the Korean Standard Time or KST was adopted in 1953-54 after Korean Armistice Agreement was signed. Since KST is the same for both North and South Korea, North Koreans still refer to the time by the old names of “Pyongyang Time” or “Hewon Time”.
Daylight Savings Time
North Korea does not observe Daylight Savings Time since 1998. They avoided this practice to save electricity costs and resources, while still following the same time-changing system as South Korea. Despite this, however, North Korean time is currently 4 minutes and 15 seconds ahead of Seoul’s time.
North Korea is slowly making strides to become more integrated in the global society. North Korean government accepted its first ever foreign ambassador in 2009 from United Arab Emirates. It was also the first non- communist country to establish an office in Pyongyang.
North Korea has been attempting to join the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) since 2009. The ITU is a specialised agency that allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develops international standards for efficient coordination of spectrum and sets global standards for telecoms operations and services. It is believed to be a first step for North Korea to connect with the outside world and to modernise its time system and connect to global time standards.
Having a reliable time-tracking system is essential for the country’s legal system. As a result, North Korea has special regulations regarding time. For example, the law requires that all clocks and watches be adjusted periodically to ensure accuracy. Further, all transactions have to be recorded in “North Korean time”. All businesses must adhere to this system and failure to do so could result in penalties or imprisonment.
Impact of Tourists
More recently, foreign tourists to North Korea have been made aware of certain legal implications with respect to time. A list of services provided by the North Korean government to foreign visitors, for example, must be requested at least 12 North Korean hours prior to the date of required service, no exceptions are made.
North Korea’s View on Time
Due to its government’s extremely closed state, North Korea has a unique perspective on time, one that works to match the state-controlled living that many citizens abide by. North Korea’s perspective on time is, that is to work and live with it, to be on time, and to integrate technology where they can, but also to stick to their traditional ways of time awareness, where accuracy of time is important, but synchronisation with the world is not.
The concept of time in North Korea appears to be quite a complex one, as the country has yet to fully open up to the world’s standards and regulations. From Korean Standard Time’s old names to their initial attempt to join the United Nations International Telecommunications Union, North Korea has been taking its first steps towards a global recognition of time. Although North Korean citizens no longer use Pyongyang Time as an official term, their respect for time as something important in their lives remains unchanged.