North Korea slams South Korea's President Park as a pro-Japanese traitor over time-zone remarks

Visitors looking at a map of the Korean peninsula at the Odusan observatory in Paju, South Korea, on Aug 7.
Visitors looking at a map of the Korean peninsula at the Odusan observatory in Paju, South Korea, on Aug 7.PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea on Wednesday accused South Korea's President of being a Japanese "sycophant" after she criticised Pyongyang's decision to change to a different time zone from the South.

The North announced last week it was moving its clocks back 30 minutes to create a new "Pyongyang Time" - breaking from what it said was a standard imposed on the Korean Peninsula by "wicked" Japanese colonialists more than a century ago.

The change will put the standard time in North Korea at GMT+8:30, 30 minutes behind South Korea which, like Japan, is at GMT+9:00.

In a meeting with senior aides in Seoul on Monday, President Park Geun Hye had called the move "regrettable" and said it could only place a further obstacle in the path of eventual Korean re-unification.

The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), which handles cross-border affairs, said Ms Park's remarks were "unpardonable" and a politically motivated provocation.

"This indicates that the hysteria of those steeped in the confrontation with their fellow countrymen in the North, and sycophancy towards Japan, has gone beyond the tolerance limit," the committee said in a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

A Korean-language version of the CPRK statement described Mr Park's decision as an "indelibly treacherous act" that his daughter had willingly embraced.

"It is an unbearable shame and tragedy for the nation that such pro-US, pro-Japanese traitors like Park Geun Hye are still rampant in the South," it added.

Standard time in pre-colonial Korea had run at GMT+8:30 but was changed to Japan standard time in the early years of the 1910-1945 Japanese occupation.

South Korea turned its clocks back in 1954 but reverted to Japan standard time in 1961 after Ms Park's father, Mr Park Chung Hee, came to power in a military coup.

Mr Park's rationale was partly that the two major United States allies in the region - South Korea and Japan - should be grouped in the same time zone to facilitate operational planning.

The North's new time setting will come into affect on Aug 15 - the 70th anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang has offered no comment on why it waited seven decades to turn its clocks back.