BACKGROUND: This study was carried out to examine the trends of government-supported health promotion research projects conducted in Korea over the past 12 years. METHODS: Research type, area of interest, organization, and expense of 726 research projects conducted from 1998 to 2009 were examined and the health promotion content analyzed. RESULTS: In Korea, 361 health policy researches (HPR) and 365 general health researches (GHR) were supported by the government during the defined time period. A total of 60.5 health promotion research were conducted annually with a total amount of 27.1 billion won provided (2.26 billion won per year). With the average research project lasting 8.5 months, HPR (7.7 months) projects were completed sooner than GHR (9.2 months). Those who majored in preventive medicine completed 177 research (24.4%), the most number of research projects, followed by public health (22.5%), and family medicine (15.6%). There were 641 health promotion research projects done mostly on policies, legal systems, and grasping current conditions, and only 85 (11.7%) clinical test research on the development or effects of health promotion programs. CONCLUSIONS: HPR have been increasing annually. However, our study could not be certain of how close the studies were to the government's health promotion policies. Furthermore, the main health promotion area, 'healthy living', was not researched as often as should be. Additionally, to improve applicability of the research projects, interdisciplinary cooperation should be promoted.