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North Korea Agrees To Sync Time With South Korea, As Symbolic Move To Unify Nations

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) embrace after signing the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula during the Inter-Korean Summit on April 27, 2018.

After creating an exclusive time zone for his country three years ago, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to change his country's clocks so that they're back in sync with South Korea.

North Korean time, or Pyongyang time as it is called, was moved back by 30 minutes in 2015, resetting the GMT, which is the standard time against which all other time zones in the world are set, to GMT +08:30. The new time put the country behind it's rival Japan and direct neighbor, South Korea.

The proposed shift back is set to start on May 5, North Korean state media reported on Monday.

Kim was inspired to change the nation's time zone in an effort to distance itself from South Korea and Japan, and to mark the 70th anniversary of its liberation from the Japanese at the end of World War II.

As Scott Neuman reported then, the shift returned North Korean clocks to where they were before colonization, which was 8.5 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

The changes in time in both directions are mostly metaphorical, Jonathan Cheng, Seoul bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, told NPR.

"The move three years ago to change the time zone to what it is now was symbolic back then," he said.

"The thing is that Korea is a former colony of Japan, and they share the same time zone. So Pyongyang was trying to say, we're going to move and be the real Korea, we're going to have our own time zone while South Korea shares a time zone with Japan," Cheng said.

But, Reuters reported, during the inter-Korean summit with President Moon Jae-in, Kim allegedly looked over at two clocks on the wall of the Peace House - one for Seoul time and one for Pyongyang time - and said it was a "painful wrench" to see the division between the two nations represented so starkly. So, he pledged to unify the clocks before unifying the countries.

Meanwhile, South Korea is also extending its own olive branch that will take effect Monday. President Moon said the government will remove loudspeakers that blast a constant stream of propaganda and pop music across the border.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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