Tamsulosin (0.2 mg) and finasteride (5 mg) once daily for 24 weeks were compared in a single-blind, randomized study as initial treatments for lower urinary tract symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in 205 Korean patients. Symptom and quality of life (QOL) assessment by the International Prostatic Symptom Score (I-PSS), maximum urinary flow rate (Qmax) and adverse events were analysed at 4 weeks and 24 weeks. On intention-to-treat analysis, both drugs showed similar efficacy at endpoint (decreased I-PSS, increased Qmax and improved QOL score; 34.7%, 23.9% and 34.1% for tamsulosin, and 30.5%, 22.2% and 23.1% for finasteride, respectively). However, tamsulosin produced significant improvements in I-PSS and Qmax at 4 weeks compared with finasteride (17.6% versus 10.0% and 10.9% versus 3.1%, respectively), and a superior QOL score improvement during the study. Adverse events were observed significantly more frequently among finasteride than tamsulosin patients (23 versus four). Both were equally effective in long-term treatment of urinary outflow obstruction symptoms associated with BPH in Korean patients, but tamsulosin was more effective for short-term treatment, with a better safety profile.