It has been suggested that hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) seroconversion after lamivudine therapy is durable in Caucasians with chronic hepatitis B (CHB). However, little is known whether it is also durable in endemic areas of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. We evaluated the posttreatment durability of lamivudine-induced HBeAg seroconversion and the predictive factors for relapse in Korean patients with CHB. We retrospectively analyzed 98 HBeAg-positive patients with CHB who were treated with lamivudine between August 1996 and December 1997. Lamivudine was given at a dose of 150 mg per day. After HBeAg seroconversion, lamivudine was continued for an additional 2 to 4 months, and posttreatment monitoring continued for up to 24 months. HBeAg seroconversion was achieved in 34 of the 98 patients (34.7%). The mean duration of treatment in these seroconverters was 9.3 +/- 3.0 months. During the follow-up period, the cumulative relapse rates at 1 year and 2 years posttreatment were 37.5% and 49.2%, respectively. Most relapses were accompanied by elevation of serum alanine transaminase (94%) and reappearance of HBeAg (81%). Pretreatment serum HBV DNA levels and the duration of additional lamivudine therapy after HBeAg seroconversion were 2 independent predictive factors for posttreatment relapse. In conclusion, lamivudine-induced HBeAg seroconversion was not durable in this endemic area. And the duration of additional lamivudine therapy after HBeAg seroconversion significantly affected the posttreatment relapse. Further studies are needed to determine the duration of lamivudine and to elucidate the cause of high relapse after HBeAg seroconversion in endemic areas of HBV.