PURPOSE: Since the induction of the residency program in the surgical departments, more than 200 residents now enter postgraduate year-1 (PGY-1) every year. This number has been declining in recent years while the dropout has been on the rise. To suggest a solution to this problem, we evaluated the current status of residency education and proposed an improved method for postgraduate surgical education. METHODS: We analyzed the responses from mailed questionnaires sent to the 789 residents in 123 different training hospitals in April 2001. Twenty-five questions were analyzed according to PGY, working conditions, and other variables. RESULTS: The response rate was 40.8% (322/789). The mean age of the residents was 30 years, and there were 28 (9%) female residents. The number of married residents were 137 (42.5%), and there were 91 1st year PGYs, 77 2nd year, 82 3rd year and 70 4th year. Most of them were being trained in university based hospitals (89.8%). The residents felt that their number was insufficient (70.8%), and that their work load was greater than that of other residents (92.9%). Their greatest stress was physical exhaustion (64.3%). Most residents discussed their problems with the senior residents (78%). They needed standardized training programs (62.1%). A majority (77.7%) responded that they did not have enough opportunities to perform surgical procedures. The single most important problem in PGY education was perceived to be the excessive work load (75.8%), which could be improved by specialized educational programs (64.6%). CONCLUSION: The absences of both educational programs and supporting manpower are the major problems facing surgical residents. Adequate stipend would be also beneficial, and increased attention and demonstrations of experience should be offered by the staff physicians.