It’s shocking to hear Australian Kim Jong Un impersonator Howard X describe being assaulted by North Korean agents as “a great experience”.
Mr X (his pseudonym) attended the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea dressed as a North Korean leader and said officers “shoved me” in front of cameras.
The media attention it has attracted “exposes[d] what kind of rogue regime North Korea is,” he said.
Addressing humanitarian issues is part of his MO. More than just a gig for gags, impersonation is his vehicle for political satire, and Mr. X says it allows him to say and do things others can’t.
“All of us impersonators make fun of the people we impersonate. Especially me. I don’t glorify Kim Jong Un, I do the opposite,” he told ABC RN’s Sunday Extra.
But identity theft is also a job that involves significant risks.
“If I ever go to North Korea, I will be killed”, says MX
And more than once, he stepped in to help other at-risk impersonators of world leaders flee persecution at home.
Kim Jong and Putin help Zelenskyy get to safety
Mx X, who is based in Hong Kong but emigrated to Australia as a child in the 1990s, knew he was on to something the first time Kim Jong Un came on TV following his father’s death , Kim Jong Il, in 2011.
“I looked at his picture and thought, ‘Oh shit, I look like him.’ Then everyone started saying the same thing.”
He tried on his likeness in public for April Fool’s Day in 2013 and posted the photos online. It was the start of a new career.
“Within two weeks, I got a call to go to Israel and do a commercial,” he says.
Work has always been steady since, including for television, music videos and public events.
But he has also been busy with humanitarian work.
As strange as it may seem to think of a fake Kim Jong Un turning to a fake Putin to get a Zelenskyy lookalike out of war-torn Ukraine, that’s exactly what happened recently.
Umid Isabaev is originally from Uzbekistan but was living in Ukraine after an image of him sleeping on a Russian train went viral. He rose to fame due to his uncanny resemblance to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In a surprise twist, production staff working on Ukraine TV’s political satire Servant of the People, which stars Mr. Zelenskyy, who also created and produced it, then invited Isabaev to work as a double for Mr. Zelenskyy on the show.
“If you watch the TV series, the second half of the third season, you’ll see Umid doing all the far shots,” says MX
Mr. X became aware of Mr. Isabaev’s work after the two appeared in a Russian documentary about copycats around the world.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr. X wanted to check how his peer was doing.
“I phoned and he was in Kyiv. I said, ‘What the hell are you doing? You have to get the hell out of here,'” MX says
To help get Mr Isabaev out of the country safely, he enlisted the help of another peer, a Polish Vladimir Putin impersonator named Steve Poland.
None of the men speak the same language, so friends had to step in to act as translators.
“[Mr Isabaev] didn’t know who we were. He was a little suspicious when I called him,” says MX
“I said to him: ‘Look, you can see me on video, you know what I look like. And you can see the guy who plays Putin. We just want to save you because we consider you a colleague. . [and] because the Russians were actually after him.”
Mr X says Putin impersonator Mr Poland had contacts within the Ukrainian resistance and found “someone to go all the way to kyiv and get [Mr Isabaev] outside”.
“It took a lot of effort. [but] we got him out of there.”
Afghan Bruce Lee also flees
Mr. Isabaev is not the only impersonator Mr. X has helped flee a war-ravaged country.
Afghan Bruce Lee impersonator Abbas Alizada is ‘probably the best Bruce Lee impersonator I know’, says MX
“Not only does he look like him, but he’s spent his whole life practicing martial arts.”
He says Mr Alizada became dangerous when Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in 2021.
“He was stuck in Kabul and the Taliban were actually looking for him. They tried to go to his house twice to kill him,” says MX
“He escaped and my role was to collect all the money to help him escape.”
He says Mr Alizada is now in a hostel with other Afghan refugees, waiting for an Australian immigration application to be assessed.
Mr. X says he will continue to try to help persecuted copycats and, with them, bring attention to humanitarian issues around the world.
Corn he is also a businessman who really wants to make a living by impersonating Kim Jong Un.
And he’s not afraid to fluff up some of his stunts, because, he says, “everything gets good press. Because of that, you get work.”
“I can’t get enough of it. In fact, being a political impersonator of Kim Jong, I get by [with] say things that no other impersonator, and no one else, could get away with.”
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