Wednesday, August 12, 2015

North Korea Travels 30 Minutes Back in Time

When I read last week that North Korea was changing its official time zone from +9 GMT, Japan Standard Time, to +8:30 GMT, my mind’s eye replayed a scene from Woody Allen’s Bananas, in which the dictator, Esposito, decreed:
From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now 16 years old!
To which, Fielding Mellish, the character played by Woody Allen asked, “What's the Spanish word for straitjacket?”

But unlike Bananas, where silly things are fiction, North Korea is actually changing its time zone. North Korea calls this Pyongyang time.

Now it so happens that a few places are on half-hour time zones: India, Iran, Afghanistan, Newfoundland, Burma, Sri Lanka, the Marquesas, Venezuela, as well as some places in Australia. Nepal uses quarter-hour time zones. In that light, North Korea being on a half-hour time zone isn’t totally nuts. Except that North Korea changed from something that’s sensible and aligned with its neighbors to a time zone that’s not normal.

The Oris GMT, a great watch,
but like other GMT watches,
it’s allergic to half hour time zones.
Photo from Oris.
There is an actual reason for this change, according to North Korea, which does speak with one voice, and that reason is to shake off all remnants of Japan’s rule over North Korea. North Korea had been on half-hour time when it was annexed by Japan in 1910. With that in mind, the change will take place on August 15 this year, which is the anniversary of North Korea’s liberation from Japan after World War II. The Korean Central News Agency said, “The wicked Japanese imperialists committed such unpardonable crimes as depriving Korea of even its standard time.”

Depriving Korea of even its standard time. An unspeakable act that requires an entire country to shift backward thirty minutes in time, further isolating it from its neighbors.

Americans should probably prohibit British beer from being sold in its fifty states.

North Korea is following in the footsteps of Venezuela, which in 2007 decided that it would set the clocks back 30 minutes so that there could be “a more fair distribution of the sunrise,” according to the country’s Science and Technology Minister. Venezuela is now on -4:30 GMT.

Certain time zones don’t make a whole lot of sense in other countries, too. Both India and China have one time zone for their entire country, which means that it can be awfully dark for a long while after you get up in the morning. Or you might see a sunset at midnight, depending on where you live and what time of year it is.

In the unlikely event that you’re traveling to North Korea after August 15, be forewarned: You’re going to have to adjust your watch a little differently than usual. If you have a GMT watch, then lots of luck to you, because GMT watches don’t work with half-hour time zones.

No comments:

Post a Comment