BACKGROUND: Respiratory viruses (RV) are important pathogen in both children and immunocompromised hosts. Rapid diagnosis of RV is important to manage patients and to implement infection control measures. To investigate the testing situation in Korea, we performed surveillance for the 95 medical institutions. Due to the paucity of long-term, multi-center data on RV epidemiology in Korea, we analyzed data from 5 university hospitals. METHODS: Surveillance questionnaires were sent to 95 members of the Korean Society for Clinical Microbiology. The RV data from 5 university hospitals, 2001 through 2005, were collected retrospectively and analyzed for the isolation rate of each virus. RESULTS: Among the 63 institutions, who replied, 49% performed RV testing and 84% of the testing institutes were university hospitals. A hundred percent institutes tested for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whereas 81% tested for influenza virus (Flu), 74% for parainfluenza virus (PIV) and adenovirus each, 32% for rhinovirus, 23% for coronavirus, and 36% for metapneumovirus. PCR and/or culture were employed in 42% of the institutes, immunochromatography 29%, immunofluorescent assay 23%, and enzyme immunoassay 7%. Among the total 11,131 specimens received, virus was detected in 22%, ranging from 12% to 28% by hospital. The most frequently detected virus was RSV (54%) and followed by PIV (18%), Flu (15%), and adenovirus (13%). But species distributions of these viruses were quite different by hospital or by year. CONCLUSION: It is necessary for more active implementation of the RV testing because only 55% of university hospitals and 17% of general hospitals performed this test.