Why ‘M*A*S*H’ Was Banned From South Korea

There have been several great sitcoms throughout television history. However, there is one sitcom that often tops the list of favorites, and that was the long-running, star-studded M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H ran for 11 seasons and was wildly popular the entire time. It actually had three spin-offs and won numerous awards. Americans loved M*A*S*H, as did most of the world. Not all of it, however, as it was completely banned from television in one country.

(L-R) Jamie Farr, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers, Harry Morgan, Mike Farrell, Alan Alda, and William Christopher smiling
(L-R) Jamie Farr, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers, Harry Morgan, Mike Farrell, Alan Alda, and William Christopher | 20th Century-Fox TV/Getty Images

The pilot episode of M*A*S*H aired in 1972. It quickly became one of American audiences favorite television shows, receiving phenomenal ratings–even the critics liked it. When the series ended in 1983, the finale set a record for the largest audience in TV history. 

The show was based on the 1970 film, which was about a mobile Army surgical hospital during the Korean War. The series followed the two main characters from the film, Hawkeye and Trapper.

Both men were great doctors, but not such great soldiers. They weren’t huge fans of following strict Army rules, and they were big fans of liquor and cute nurses…

Other main characters from the series included Maj. Margaret Houlihan, Corp. “Radar” O’Reilly, and Corp. Max Klinger. Houlihan was a super-strict ranking nurse, Radar was the company clerk, and Klinger provided endless laughs as he cross-dressed constantly in an attempt to be discharged and sent home. 

The series was banned in South Korea

RELATED: ‘M*A*S*H’: One Storyline Was Cut Because It Was Too ‘Unpatriotic’

Despite the series’ incredible popularity in the United States, it was actually banned in another part of the world. M*A*S*H was set in South Korea, but actually aired during the Vietnam War.

The series focused mostly on its comedic plots, and didn’t bother much with politics. Due to what was happening in the world at the time, the series did have a few infrequent anti-war messages that resonated with audiences. 

All in all, the series never had any extremely controversial subjects that would lead to its being banned. South Korea, however, felt differently. They were highly offended by the way the series portrayed the country of South Korea. During the Korean War, that area was extremely poverty-stricken, and the general consensus is that M*A*S*H actually painted a fairly accurate portrait of the circumstances at the time. 

South Korea didn’t seem to care how realistic the depiction was, they just didn’t want the world remembering it that way forever. So they completely banned the show, and it never aired in that country. 

What did the cast do after the show ended? 

Many of the main cast members of the show continued to work in entertainment after the series ended.

Alan Alda (Hawkeye) actually worked behind the scenes of M*A*S*H as well as being a major character–he wrote and directed several episodes. He went on to write and direct three films — Sweet Liberty, A New Life, and Betsy’s Wedding. He also starred in several films and TV shows, including The Aviator, Ray Donovan, and The West Wing

Loretta Swit (Margaret Houlihan) was the only cast member (aside from Alan Alda) who was in both the first and last episodes of the series. She attempted to leave M*A*S*H in the tenth season, but CBS wouldn’t let her out of her contract. She wanted to pursue the role of Cagney in Cagney & Lacey, but after playing the role in the pilot episode, she had to return to M*A*S*H and the role was given to someone else. She didn’t do much acting after the series ended, just a few bit roles here and there. 

Jamie Farr (Klinger) was originally only supposed to be in one episode, but he was so popular with audiences that he became a series regular. The cross-dressing Klinger’s character changed quite a bit throughout the series, mainly because Farr was worried that his children might be teased at school. He continued acting after the show ended, starring in Cannonball Run II, AfterMASH, and The Cool Kids