Although Kim Jong-Un is no stranger to the international spotlight – from hanging out with NBA legend Dennis Rodman to being named the Sexiest Man Alive in 2012 – the North Korean dictator is rarely photographed outside of Pyongyang. One enterprising Australian man with an uncanny resemblance to the Supreme Leader brings the likeness of Kim to the streets of Hong Kong – without sparking a diplomatic crisis. The Mao suit-donning impersonator shocks passerby and provides an otherwise impossible photo opportunity for tourists.
Howard, who was born in Hong Kong, didn’t expect to become his home city’s most famous despot lookalike. The 35-year-old musician was the target of incessant joking about his notorious doppelganger ever since Kim succeeded his father in 2011. Howard, who doesn’t share his last name for fear of backlash from the Hermit Kingdom, decided to run with it – posting a photo of himself dressed as Kim to Facebook last April.
After the photo unexpectedly went viral, Howard decided to offer his services as a professional body double – “The closest thing you will get to the ‘DEAR LEADER’ without going to North Korea,” his official Facebook descriptions states. He has since been profiled by media outlets around the world, even appearing in an Israeli burger chain commercial. In the controversial ad, the Kim lookalike drops a nuclear bomb on Washington D.C. due to his dissatisfaction with McDonalds.
“Keeping up with Kim's look is extremely easy and enjoyable. All I have to do is eat and eat and then eat some more,” Howard told The Mirror. “The key to becoming Kim is to always look unhappy and dissatisfied. It is his trademark.”
One Washington Post columnist disagreed with Howard’s sentiment, pointing out that the younger Kim is often seen smiling – a stark contrast to the stone-faced Kim Jong Il.
“Kim smiles all the time… [His] beaming smile is plastered all over North Korean state media, part of his carefully crafted image as a caring, parental leader who loves his people deeply and earnestly,” said the Post.
Regardless of whether Howard is oversimplifying his adopted persona, he has become a social media sensation – even in South Korea. “I actually thought he was the real deal!” said one commenter on a South Korean online forum.
But pretending to be a harsh dictator, who earlier this week ordered the executions of 80 people by firing squad for simply watching foreign films, can become overwhelming.
“Sometimes I have to wear a baseball cap and sunglasses to try and avoid the attention when going about my everyday business,” he told The Telegraph.
“It is fun to play him because it freaks people out. They don't expect to see this notorious dictator walking the streets of their city,” Howard added. “But it is always nice to go back and just be myself at the end of the day.”
A video interview of Howard, courtesy of Barcroft TV, can be viewed below: