By Ju-min Park
HANOI (Reuters) – Cars stopped and tourists gawked at what appeared to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wandering the streets of Hanoi.
Days before the second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam’s capital, a Kim impersonator appeared on Friday at the Metropole Hotel, a back-up location for the meeting.
Howard X, an Australian, has been cashing in his resemblance to North Korea’s leader, especially with the haircut, as he engages with the outside world.
“Kim, let me say this to you: Kim, please get a proper haircut. It looks awful,” Howard X said, adding that it takes him three hours to prepare his outfit and get into character.
The impersonator visited Singapore in June before the first summit between Kim and Trump, where he performed satirical stunts and said he was briefly detained by authorities.
He also showed up at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where he danced in front of an appalled North Korean cheer squad before being hauled away by security..
Vietnam, North Korea’s Cold-War communist ally, was more friendly turf, Howard X told reporters.
“Last time we did it in Singapore, which is kind of his territory,” he said, exchanging handshakes and hugs with another impersonator dressed as U.S. President Donald Trump. “Now we are in my territory with my comrades.”
The Kim and Trump impersonators were surrounded by reporters and television cameras at the hotel, before security staff showed them the door.
Hanoi is rolling out the red carpet for the real leaders and their delegations. The flags of Vietnam, the United States and North Korea lined main roads, hanging alongside a summit emblem depicting two hands clasped together inside a blue circle.
Howard X said he planned to eat Vietnamese food and play golf with his partner and Trump impersonator, Russell White, during the Feb. 27-28 summit.
Later, outside Hanoi’s Opera House, a crowd gathered around the two lookalikes, laughing and taking pictures.
Howard X was dressed in a Mao suit with a badge featuring the late North Korean leader and Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il.
“I thought it was the real Kim Jong Un when I looked at his back, but oh well, it is not,” said Lee Sang-hyuk, a South Korean student doing volunteer work in Vietnam.
“Whether it’s them or the real Kim and Trump, I hope there will be peace.”
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Darren Schuettler, Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)