By James Pearson and Hyunjoo Jin
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – 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.
Howard had caused a commotion during last Friday’s opening ceremony when he and a person dressed as U.S. 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.”
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 humor and a bit of political satire is always needed.”
(This version of the story repeats changing headline)
(Editing by Mark Bendeich)