BACKGROUND: This study reports findings from the ITC Korea Survey, which was conducted to evaluate the characteristics in Korean adult smokers as part of the ITC Project. METHODS: Adult male and female smokers were randomly selected using telephone survey from November to December 2005. The ITC Korea Survey contained a wide range of questions on smoking behavior and smoking history. The data reported are weighted on the basis of age and gender, and they are nationally representative of smokers in Korea. RESULTS: A total of 1,002 smokers among the selected 1,402 subjects (71.5%) were interviewed; 96.2% were males. Daily smokers comprised 94.5% of the sample. The mean of cigarettes per day was 17.9. The average minutes after waking before the first cigarette was smoked was lower (50.6 minutes) than it was in other countries of the ITC Project. Over 90% considered themselves addicted to cigarettes and 86.5% expressed regret over smoking. Smokers reported that the norms against smoking in Korea were very strong both personal norms (89.4%) and perceived norms in Korean society (86.3%). Among the smokers, 80.8% had tried to quit smoking, and 76.1% were planning to quit. Only 5.8% of the Korean smokers indicated that the warning labels made them a lot more likely to quit smoking. When the price of cigarettes increased by 500 won (25%) in December 2004, 34.3% reported trying to quit smoking. Only 17.7% supported a complete workplace ban and 15.8% supported a complete ban in restaurants. Although knowledge of the harms of smoking was high, nearly 80% of the Koreans wrongly believed that "nicotine causes most of the cancer in smokers." Finally, the great majority (85.2%) of smokers in Korea believed that "the government should do more to tackle the harm done by smoking" and 62.5% believed that "tobacco products should be more tightly regulated." CONCLUSION: The results from the baseline wave of the ITC Korea Survey have identified where tobacco control in Korea has been done. Future waves of the ITC Korea Survey will be able to evaluate the impact of important tobacco control policies that Korea will be required to implement over the next few years, as a party to the FCTC.