As It Happens

This Kim Jong-un impersonator was kicked out of Vietnam before the real Kim showed up

A Kim Jong-un impersonator says he was kicked out of Vietnam for being too good at his job.

'My crime was looking like the leader of the North Korean regime,' says Australian comedian

Howard X, an Australian impersonating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, leaves the La Paix Hotel in a car while escorted by police in Hanoi on Monday. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)
Listen5:49

A Kim Jong-un impersonator says he was kicked out of Vietnam for being too good at his job. 

The Australian comedian, who goes by the name Howard X, says Vietnamese authorities expelled him from the country on Monday, citing issues with his visa, some 24 hours before the real North Korean leader was due to arrive for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

"Basically, my impersonation was the crime that got me kicked out of the country," Howard X told As It Happens host Carol Off from Singapore. 

"My crime was looking like the leader of the North Korean regime."

Vietnamese foreign ministry officials did not immediately respond to As It Happens' request for comment.

Howard X, whose real name is Lee Howard Ho Wun, has made a career of his resemblance to Kim — and gotten into plenty of trouble along the way. 

He's such a dead ringer for the North Korean leader that his image appears in a Google snippet when you search "Kim Jong-un" in Spanish. 

A search of 'Kim Jong-un' on Google's Spanish-language page yields an image of impersonator Howard X. (Google)

He performed in Singapore in June, and says he was briefly detained by authorities there.

He also showed up at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where he danced in front of a North Korean cheer squad before security hauled him away.

This time, he said he showed up in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi with his new comedy partner, a Trump impersonator he identified as Canadian Russell White.

The pair regaled reporters with a fake summit on Friday in front of the hotel where Kim would be staying during the summit — in full view of several North Korean officials. 

Howard X, whose real name is Lee Howard Ho Wun, pictured with Trump impersonator Russell White outside the Opera House in Hanoi. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

"After that went viral, the police came after us," he said. "They do not have a sense of humour. They don't know what satire is."

He said police tracked the impersonators to a local TV station where they were doing an interview on Friday and told them they'd both have to leave the country by Monday.

Authorities later told White he could stay in the country so long as he stopped doing impersonations, but that Howard X had to leave because his visa was invalid, he said. 

But the Kim impersonator doesn't buy it.

"I think the reason for this is, No. 1, a plane ticket back to Canada costs a lot more. And No. 2, Mr. Trump ... doesn't really have any problems with impersonation and he actually has a sense of humour," he said.

As It Happens was unable to reach White for comment. The Trump impersonator's Facebook page appears to be newly created and lists only Howard X's email under contact information. 

Shining a light 

Despite all the trouble, Howard X said he he plans to continue doing his impersonation around the world — partly because he's made a good career out of his resemblance to the North Korean leader, and partly because he believes it's the right thing to do.

Howard X and White were reportedly questioned by police when they did an interview at a Vietnamese TV station. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

"I love taking the piss out of the North Koreans. I think, you know, having the face of the Dear Leader gives me the power to really shine a light on all the horrible things that are happening there," he said. 

"I hope anybody that wants to highlight, you know, what these abuses are in North Korea, this is the time to speak out now because of all the focus is on North Korea."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters and The Associated Press. Interview with Howard X produced by Allie Jaynes. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.