Traditionally, pathologists have used human biological material primarily for diagnostic purposes. More recently, advances in biomedical technology and changes in the research environment have placed new demands on pathologists and their handling of human materials. Moreover, these technological advances have required pathologists to be not only experts in diagnosis, but also managers of biobanks storing human biological material. Consequently, pathologists might now be confronted with unanticipated legal and ethical questions. We investigated seven examples of South Korean legislation concerning human biological material, including "The Bioethics and Safety Act" (2005), and we considered possible conflicts of interest between donors and researchers. We also reviewed international bioethical guidelines and legal precedents from several countries with special regard to pathologic glass slides, paraffin blocks, remaining specimens and other guidelines. We conclude that a better understanding of the legal and ethical questions concerning human biological material leads pathologists to safer and more conscientious management of these samples.