R.I.P. Richard Lee-Sung, a M*A*S*H actor who actually served in the Korean War
The Texas native was a bartender in Chinatown before becoming a guest star in the 4077th.
In the 1974 M*A*S*H episode "Officer of the Day," Hawkeye has a lot of luck — well, "Lucks." Multiple locals named "Kim Luck" show up at the 4077th for treatment. Jamie Farr (Klinger) cites it as one of his favorite episodes. It likely held a fond place in the memory of the second Kim in the story, played by Richard Lee-Sung. It was his M*A*S*H debut.
Lee-Sung would go on to appear in 11 episodes of the iconic dramedy, memorably as a pushy salesman in "Bug Out," as a creative French horn repairman in "The Smell of Music," and running a craps game in "A Night at Rosie's." For the Texas native, it was a step back in time. He had served in the Korean War.
As one of the "Chosen Few," Lee-Sung fought in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir as a member of the U.S. Marines. Later, he left his hometown of El Paso behind and settled in Los Angeles. There, the man of Mexican-Chinese heritage found work and notoriety in Chinatown. As a bartender at L.A. joints like Tang's and General Lee's, the bald fellow who liked to be called "Curlee" reportedly delighted customers. He would eventually perform as a comic at General Lee's, according to a newspaper profile from 1975.
That summer of '75, Lee-Sung had landed a role as an ensemble player in Keep on Truckin', a short-lived variety show that also cast young talents such as Billy Crystal and Didi Conn. By that point, he had a M*A*S*H appearance under his belt, as well as guest spots on Kung Fu.
As his star began to rise, he nabbed roles in The Apple Dumpling Gang, Happy Days, The Incredible Hulk and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. His M*A*S*H ties continued in the '80s, as he popped up in both Trapper John, M.D. and AfterMASH.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, the MASH Matters Podcast posted an announcement from Richard's son Russell on Facebook: "We are deeply saddened to announce that veteran character actor and beloved M*A*S*H guest star Richard Lee Sung passed away at the age of 91 on August 16th, 2021."
"Those [M*A*S*H] roles were some of his best memories as an actor working with an amazing cast, crew and director (Alan Alda) whom he had the highest respect," Russell wrote. He was 91 years old.