North Korea has never sought to be in sync with the rest of the world. While we think of this as being 2015, they consider it to be 103 Juche, as per a calendar introduced in 1997 and based on the country’s “founder” Kim Il-sung’s date of birth: 15 April 1912. That year is used as Juche 1 and the system works forward from there. In fact the Juche calendar does maintain the Gregorian calendar’s traditional months and the number of days in a month. Now to make things even more complicated, the country has switched to its own time zone, now being referred to as “Pyongyang Time,” which puts it a half-hour behind the time used in South Korea and Japan.
While many are calling this bizarre, it really isn’t as strange as it may seem, and actually reverts to the time first adopted by the then-unified Korea in 1908, but changed by the Japanese after they colonized the peninsula in 1912. In fact South Korea briefly revived the time old zone from 1954-1961, while North Korea stuck with the Japanese zone until this past Friday. The decision to go back to the old time zone coincided with the 70th Anniversary of North Korea’s “liberation from imperialism” following the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, and has been seen as a great celebration throughout the nation.
Although the decision to create time zones were first proposed in the 19th century as global travel and communication became more important, they were not standardized until the early 20th century, as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), named after the meridian which runs through an observatory in Greenwich, England. Even so, countries have continued to create their own time zones to suit their needs, For instance, India, Iran and Myanmar maintain1/2-hour differences from their neighbors, while Nepal has a 45-minute lag. In addition, China decided in 1949, that despite being 3,100 miles long, the entire country would function under one time zone known as Beijing Time.
Meanwhile, Russian-President Dimitry Medvedev pushed through a plan to end the practice of daylight savings in the country in 2011, converting the country to permanent summer time. However, after people in different parts of the country complained that it was “still dark at 9 a.m.,” Vladimir Putin, announced last year that Russia would do away with permanent summer time, and go to permanent winter time, and also re-introduce two time zones that Medvedev had abolished.
Even the tiny island nation of Samoa decided to “jump” the international dateline going from “east to west” by skipping December 30, 2011 altogether and going straight from December 30th straight into December 31st. As a result, the country is became one of the first to greet each new day, instead of the last. In the meantime, neighboring American Samoa decided to “stay” on the eastern side of the dateline, resulting in a time difference of a whole day between the two territories, which are only 30-miles away from each other.