North Korean cheerleaders caught off guard by fake Kim Jong Un

North Korean cheerleaders caught off guard by fake Kim Jong Un
PHOTO: Reuters

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - A group of North Korean cheerleaders were briefly wowed by the apparent, sudden arrival of their leader, Kim Jong Un, at a Winter Olympics ice hockey game on Wednesday.

Some cheerleaders immediately averted their gaze as the impersonator, who later only identified himself as Howard, smiled and waved to crowds who came to watch a unified Korean team play Japan at the Pyeongchang Games.

"They are playing a good game, they scored one goal. As a president, it's all I can ask for," Howard told Reuters, shortly after plain-clothed officials from South Korea's National Counter-terrorism Centre moved him away from the cheerleaders, who he said had been doing a very good job.

"I mean I trained them by myself so, of course, they're the best in the world," Howard said.

Photo: Reuters

Howard had caused a commotion during last Friday's opening ceremony when he and a person dressed as US President Donald Trump were swiftly shown out of the stadium by security staff.

He said he was briefly detained inside a police office during Wednesday's match then "politely asked" to leave.

"My face is too political," the dejected impersonator said as he walked slowly out of the ice hockey stadium.

"I was born with this face, I've got to live with it."

Photo: Reuters

In North Korea, anyone impersonating a member of the ruling Kim family would be considered blasphemous. Images of the North Korean leadership are tightly choreographed and controlled by the reclusive nation's state propagandists.

Still, Howard's entrance was so spectacular that the North Korean cheerleaders struggled to stifle a quick laugh in between chants of "We are one!" and "Unify the motherland!"

"It shows you we're human after all," Howard said. "Doesn't matter if they're South or North Koreans, a sense of humour and a bit of political satire is always needed."

See North Korea's cheerleading 'army of beauties' in action

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    North Korea's cheerleaders serenaded South Korean fans with tender love songs on Saturday (Feb 10) as a joint Korean ice hockey team's emotional Olympic debut ended in tears before the sister of Kim Jong Un.

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    Around 200 of North Korea's famed "army of beauties" charmed a crowd of 3,600 besotted locals with nostalgic oldies - and even broke out a Mexican wave.

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    Decked out in red tracksuits and woolly hats, North Korea's cheerleaders sang "uri nun, hana da" (we are one) and clapped in perfect unison as local hip hop artists rapped on a stage behind them and K-Pop blared over the loudspeakers in a stark clash of cultures.

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    Local fans took pictures of the cheerleaders, who smiled for the cameras before unfurling a unification flag at the final buzzer.

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    The cheerleaders continued to chant long after the rest of the arena had emptied.

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    The troupe, cheered by dozens of fans as their bus pulled up under tight security before the game, have been dispatched south as part of a North Korean charm offensive after months of fiery rhetoric threatening nuclear war and provocative missile tests.

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    The ladies, all in their late teens or early 20s, are said to be handpicked from elite universities and undergo strict background checks.

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    During the game, the group of supporters from North Korea were seen cheering the unified team while wearing a mask of a young man.

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    After the image emerged, suspicions that the mask bore the picture of a young Kim Il-sung surfaced among South Koreans. It was further fueled by those disgruntled by the participation of the North, which has been aggravating regional tensions with its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

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    The South Korean Unification Ministry attempted to put out the fire early by saying Sunday the face was not that of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's grandfather.

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    "(The ministry) informs you that the mask used by the North Korean supporters during the women's' ice hockey match was a 'handsome man's mask'," the ministry said in its statement.

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