One hundred thirty-one strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae isolated from clinical specimens between January 1991 and April 1993 were serotyped and tested for susceptibility to 10 antimicrobials by the agar dilution method. Five serotypes (6A, 6B, 14, 19F, and 23F) accounted for 67% of all isolates. Seventy percent of isolates were not susceptible to penicillin, exhibiting either intermediate resistance (37%) or high-level resistance (33%); 82% of isolates from children and 59% of those from normally sterile body fluids were resistant to penicillin. A significantly increased rate of penicillin resistance (P < .01, Fisher's exact or chi 2 test) was associated with hospitalization, an age of < or = 15 years, ongoing antimicrobial therapy at the time of isolation of the organism, nosocomial acquisition, and several specific serotypes (6, 14, 19F, and 23F). No penicillin-resistant strain showed beta-lactamase activity. Various proportions of the penicillin-resistant strains also displayed resistance to cefaclor (89%), cefotaxime (82%), chloramphenicol (65%), erythromycin (52%), and ciprofloxacin (15%), but none was resistant to teicoplanin or vancomycin. The prevalence of pneumococcal resistance documented in Korea in this study is among the highest figures published to date.