You’ve decided that you’d like to travel to North Korea. You’ve booked your flights, your visa is in hand, and your trip is secured with the sine qua non of DPRK travel, Young Pioneer Tours. All you need to do is get your clock set for North Korea time.
What is the North Korea time zone?
The time zone of North Korea is known as ‘Pyongyang Time’ (PT), or, if you wanna get really jazzy, ‘Standard Time of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (‘STOTDPRK’, to coin a phrase). This is the same time zone as that of the DPRK’s neighbours to the south, which is UTC+9. UTC, or Universal Time Coordinated, is the more politically correct way of saying Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
The fraught history of the North Korean demi-heure
Until around 1912 – at which time Korea was occupied by Japan – the whole Korean peninsula was set at UTC+8.30, half an hour ahead of China and half an hour behind Japan. This did not fit with Japanese colonial ambitions, alas, and Korea was brought in line with its Nipponese overlords and moved to UTC+9.
South Korea readopted the unconventional split-hour approach again from 1954-1961, until realising it was kind of a pain to have to constantly add/subtract 30 minutes from everything on an international scale.
Why is Korea Time not the same as Chinese Time?
From a trade point of view, particularly in the North, China time would be more convenient than Japan time for Koreans, yet despite the comradely friendship North Korea is fiercely in dependent, not wanting to be seen as a stooge of China.
From a South Korean point of view it can probably be put down more to pragmatism than anything else, particularly with regards to how much the country trades with Japan.
Is there daylight savings time in North Korea and South Korea?
Thankfully neither North, or South Korea use any form of daylight savings time, meaning the clocks remain the same throughout the year in both countries.
In the North at least, particularly in the north of the north this does mean that days often begin dark and start darker in the harsh winters of the country.
Pyongyang Time or PST
Not to be outdone, North Korea followed suit 54 years later and returned to the split-hour game. Much like their Southern brethren, they eventually concluded that the half-hour asynchronicity was more trouble than it was worth, and they returned to the UTC + 8 status quo in 2018.
The reason for going back to “Korea Time”? Officially it was to promote intra-Korean relations, push the country towards reunification, as well overall brotherly love – with Korean relations being particularly good at this point. In reality though it was most probably more down to efficiency and pragmatism, rather than ideology.
What was Pyongyang Time like? We can only speak as travel agents, but it was a real pain in the ass having North Korea time for the few years it existed, particularly with regards to trains etc. For whatever reason we are more accustomed to a one hour time difference than a 30 minute one.
For the sake of simplicity (if it can be described as such), it’s simply easiest to remember that the two Koreas are basically in the same time zone as Japan, although if you do visit the DPRK do not refer to Korea Time as Japan Time, which is probably a good rule of thumb either side of the DMZ.
If history has taught us anything, though, North Korea Time may still make comeback.