Soon-Tek Oh, the veteran Korean-American actor died at the age of 85 on 4th April after a long fight with Alzheimer’s. The news came from fellow actor Chil Kong who co-founded the Lodestone Theatre Ensemble under Oh’s mentorship during the 1990s.
Born in Mokpo, Korea the actor came to the United States as a teenager in 1959. He would become one of the most familiar Asian-American actors in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and blazed a trail for many of the faces that came after him, slowly rising above roles that often played to stereotype.
On television he appeared in countless television series such as The Wild-Wild West, The Invaders, Kung Fu, Hart to Hart, The Fall Guy, Dynasty, Hawaii Five-O, M*A*S*H, Charlie’s Angels, Magnum PI, Cagney and Lacey, Hill Street Blues, Babylon 5, Stargate SG1 and Touched by an Angel and appeared in mini-series such as How the West was Won and East of Eden. He also essayed the part of Kiem Sun in the 1992 Highlander episode ‘The Road Not Taken‘.
On the big screen he acted opposite Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun and was the voice of Fa Zhou in the animated Mulan films.
But it was on the stage that the actor made the most impact to his profession. He had a long association with the Los Angeles’ East-West Players theatre company and his career encompassed everything from Ibsen to Shakespeare. The company’s alumni would also include performers such as B.D. Wong, John Cho, Daniel Dae Kim, and Kal Penn. After the infamous Los Angeles riots in the early 1990s, Oh created the Society of Heritage Performers with a remit to further broaden the exposure and experiences of the Asian-American performers beyond the stereotypes of the screen – often seen as villains or victims and outsiders.
Though Oh hadn’t formally acted on screen for most of the last decade he had taught in Korea and the moved back to Los Angeles.