Even for North Korea, this would be the WTF story of the year:
A number of analysts here are convinced that not all the photos being released of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, are really photos of Kim Jong-il. Instead, they say, a look-alike has been standing in for him on some of the 122 trips he’s reportedly made this year to the countryside, factories, cultural events, military units, and all sorts of other venues.
Some observers say the North Korean leader is too ill to make all these appearances. One Japanese analyst claims President Clinton didn’t meet with Kim Jong-il in August ““ he met with a Mr. Kim double. [Christian Science Monitor, Don Kirk]
The evidence for this? None, really, although Kirk points out that Saddam Hussein kept a number of doubles, and North Korean defectors say the same of Kim Jong Il:
Ha Tae-young, president of Open Radio for North Korea, which broadcasts two hours a day via shortwave into North Korea, cites the word of one recent North Korean defector.
“He says he knows a girl whose father is the actor for Kim Jong-il,” says Mr. Ha. “Recently Kim Jong-il loses fat. He’s very skinny these days. The defector says, If Kim Jong-il looks skinny, the actor can do the same thing.”
Make of this what you will. I suppose it’s not implausible, but if it’s true, we can shelve the entire conversation about health and succession. After all, the supply of doubles is as infinite as the supply of plastic surgeons.
We can defer for another day the more complex discussion of who the real Bill Clinton is.