Thirty-eight antibiotic-resistant isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae recovered in a hospital in Seoul, Korea, between February 1990 and March 1992 were analyzed for serotype, antibiotic susceptibility patterns, and chromosomal relatedness using pulsed-field gel electrophoretic (PFGE) analysis of SmaI chromosomal digests. Most of the isolates were from sputum samples, and a few strains were from otitis media and meningitis. The great majority of isolates (34 of 38, or 89%) were multiresistant, sharing virtually identical, elevated minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) values (microgram/ml) for penicillin (1-2), chloramphenicol (12-25), tetracycline (25-30), and sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (> 100). Twenty of the isolates were also resistant to erythromycin, and all isolates were also considered to be resistant to ceftriaxone and cefotaxime (1-2) according to the new breakpoint definitions. The most frequent serotypes were 23F (17 of 38) and 19F(14 of 38); 2 belonged to serotype 15B and 1 of 24F. Of the remaining 4 isolates (2 serotype 3, 1 type 6B, and 1 type 9V) all were resistant to tetracycline and sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim and with the exception of 1 of the type 3 strains, were also resistant to chloramphenicol. Eleven of the 14 serotype 19F isolates shared a relatively homogeneous PFGE pattern, which was indistinguishable from the PFGE pattern shown by most (12 of 17) of the 23F isolates. The PFGE pattern of these 19F and 23F isolates was also indistinguishable from the PFGE pattern shown by representative multiresistant capsular type 23F isolates from Croatia, Portugal, and New York City and the findings document the extensive geographic spread of this multidrug-resistant S. pneumoniae clone. The data also suggests in vivo capsular transformation of the multiresistant clone from serotype 23F to serotype 19F.