PURPOSE: To produce the nationwide 5-year survival rates of Korean cancer patients by primary cancer site. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The study subjects were cancer patients diagnosed in 1995, as documented by the Korea Central Cancer Registry (KCCR) Program. This data was collected in 120 (93%) of 129 nationwide intern- and resident-training hospitals and 75 (94%) of the 80 Korean university hospitals. Follow-up was performed by obtaining information upon vital status (i.e., whether living or dead) from the government administered whole population files. Cumulative observed survival rate (OSR) was calculated by using the life table method and the relative survival rate (RSR) was computed using the life-time table for the years 1995, 1997, and 1999. RESULTS: Of the 55,042 study subjects, the OSR for all Korean cancer patients was 61.4% at 1 year and 38.1% at 5 years. The RSR for all cancers was 62.5% at 1 year and 41.4% at 5 years, and the 5-year RSRs for all cancers in men and women were 32.6% and 53.2%, respectively. CONCLUSION: This is the first nationwide report upon 5-year cancer survival by primary site in Korea. Men showed a lower survival rate than women in most malignancies. Pancreatic and thyroid cancer had the lowest and highest 5-year survival rates, respectively.