North Korea syncs clocks with South in show of reconciliation

North Korea says clocks in the country will be set forward by 30 minutes to realign with time in South Korea, a move described as “the first practical step” for national reconciliation and unity on the peninsula.

The decision to adjust the time zone was approved by the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly, the state-controlled KCNA news agency reported on Friday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un proposed the measure at a landmark meeting last week with South Korean President Moon Jae-in that was held at the Peace House venue on their shared border.

“I feel sad to see that there are two clocks hung on the wall in the Peace House, one for Seoul time and the other for Pyongyang time,” Kim reportedly said at the talks, speaking of a “painful wrench”.

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The Koreas used the same time zone for decades before North Korea in 2015 created its own “Pyongyang Time” by setting its clocks 30 minutes behind South Korea and Japan.

It said at the time that it did so to root out the legacy of Tokyo’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, when clocks in Korea were changed to be the same as in Japan.

North Korea is now once again nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), placing it in the same time zone as South Korea and Japan.

Al Jazeera’s Kathy Novak reports that “many people here are feeling a renewed hope about this country’s relationship with North Korea.”

“South Korea welcomed the move, saying it represents a decision to remove the obstacles in the path to inter-Korean and US-North Korean exchanges and cooperation that are to come,” added Novak.

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The thaw between the two nations, which are technically still at war despite the 1953 Korean War Armistice, comes after a tense 2017, in which multiple missile tests by North Korea prompted an international outcry and an exchange of insults between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Trump said on Friday that a date and place have been set for his planned meeting with Kim. He promised to reveal the details of the summit shortly.

At the same meeting last week, Kim also vowed to begin shutting down North Korea’s nuclear test site in Punggye-ri this month.

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