North Korea Changes Its Clocks to South Korea's Time in First Step Toward Reunification

In a symbolic move meant to showcase North Korea's willingness to pursue a permanent peace treaty with South Korea, Pyongyang set its clocks 30 minutes forward on Friday (Saturday, Korea time) to sync up its time with Seoul.

The time change was made almost exactly one week after North and South Korean leaders held a historic inter-Korean summit in a town near the Demilitarized Zone between their two countries. During the meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in committed to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula and attempting to make peace for the first time since the two countries split following a war in the 1950s.

"South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard," the two leaders wrote in a joint statement.

Since then, the two sides have removed loudspeakers from the border area that for decades blasted propaganda into the demilitarized zone. But changing the time on the clocks is the first symbolic gesture made only by Pyongyang. North Korea had originally changed its time by half an hour to demonstrate its independence from South Korea. Now, North Korean state media has suggested changing the clock was the first step toward reunifying the Korean peninsula.

"The time-resetting is the first practical step taken after the historic third north-south summit meeting to speed up the process for the North and the South to become one," said the official KCNA agency.

Still, the process toward complete reconciliation will be a long one. Numerous surveys also show that there is limited appetite in South Korea for reunification.

At the time of the summit, the South's presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said Kim offered to adjust the time systems. "I feel sad to see that there are two clocks hung on the wall of the Peace House, one for Seoul time and the other for Pyongyang time," The North Korean leader said, according to Yoon. "Since it is us who changed the time standard, we will return to the original one. You can make it public."