Spitting Image: The Kim Jong-Il Look-Alike

Look-alike takes advantage of his resemblance to North Korean leader.

ByABC News
July 17, 2009, 8:10 AM

SEOUL, July 17, 2009 -- Fourteen years ago, right after taking a shower, Kim Young-Shik looked into the mirror after blow-drying his curly hair and thought perhaps his friends were right: Maybe he did look like that man who lost his father and was soon to be the leader of his enemy country, North Korea.

Up until 1994, when the late-founder of the world's most secretive state, Kim Il-Sung, passed away, average South Koreans did not know what his son, Kim Jong-Il, looked like. The two Koreas have not reached a truce agreement since at the end of the Korean War in 1953, and any piece information about North Korea was strictly controlled by the South Korean government.

But around that time of Kim Il-Sung's death, the junior Kim's pictures began to appear on South Korean newspapers. For days, Kim Young-Shik's friends encouraged him to audition for a role in a movie looking for someone who resembled North Korea's new leader.

"So I did, and beat 120 applicants. It was the turning point of my life," said Kim pointing at the TV screen in his Seoul living room playing a videotape of that movie, "The Rose of Sharon." The movie, based on a best-selling novel, features the two Koreas uniting against Japanese invasion. At the end, the South Korean president and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il drop a nuclear bomb on a Japanese uninhabited island in revenge.

That movie debut -- based mostly on his resemblance to the still secretive Kim Jong-Il -- led to other acting opportunities for Kim Young-Shik, both domestic and abroad.

"I was quite popular, you know," he touted.

Posing as Kim Jong-Il, he appeared in a Japanese television drama and shot various commercials for products such as an electronic dictionary in Korea and Twix chocolate bars in Lebanon. He soon found himself invited to numerous Korean TV entertainment shows, parties and public events.

"I once even officiated a wedding ceremony in my grey army suit," said Kim, still wearing his favorite two-piece army suit with a flag pin on his lapel.