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Meet Kim Jong Il's lookalike

By Sohn Jie-Ae
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- At the small stationery shop in eastern Seoul run by Kim Young-Shik, a customer is clearly flustered by the proprietor's looks. His frizzy black hair, wide-framed glasses and short stature bear a stark resemblance to a man South Koreans aren't used to seeing in person.

"I don't want to offend you," the customer told the owner. "But don't you look like someone?"

That someone is Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader affectionately known by his own people as the "Dear Leader."

The resemblance between the two Kims (no relation) is uncanny.

They have the same unruly curls, pale complexion, and the protruding belly. The two are even the same height.

When Kim wears his olive green Kim Jong Il uniform and dons black sunglasses, walking down the street can be quite an adventure.

On a recent outing, passersby stopped to do a double take, with one man whipping out his cell phone camera to snap a picture. Taxis slowed down to get a better glimpse.

"When did you return from China?" one driver shouted, referring to rumors reported in the media that the North Korean leader is on a secret visit to Beijing.

Kim has also perfected the North Korean leader's gestures, waving to the masses, clasping his hands together to salute the military, and sternly pointing his index finger to make a point. (Watch Kim on the streets of Seoul -- 2:50)

The South Korean Kim started cashing in on his physical resemblance to Kim Jong Il a few years ago, when he beat out more than a 120 other Kim Jong Il wannabes to play the Dear Leader in a Korean feature film.

But Kim says his real status as the North Korean leader double blossomed in 2000, when the South Korean leader held a summit with his northern counterpart.

South and North Korea have been arch rivals since the two fought each other in the 1950 Korean War. And the North continues to cause international anxiety with its development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

But with the summit, a mood of reconciliation with the North emerged in the South.

Since then, Kim has played a number of Kim Jong Il roles in dramas and films.

He enjoys his star status, and is often asked to don his Kim Jong Il garb to appear at weddings and birthday parties.

While Kim is not condoning the North's nuclear activities, Kim said he feels he can understand the difficult position the North Korean leader is in. He also hopes one day to meet the Dear Leader himself.

"Now that would be a real honor," he said.


Kim Young-Shik embraces his looks, appearing at weddings and birthday parties as Kim Jong Il.




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