BACKGROUND: For the improvement in stroke care, we have campaigned for stroke warning signs and its symptoms. However, few reports on the validation of symptom selection in the campaign have been published till now. METHODS: Based on the prospective stroke registry, patients were identified, who were hospitalized with stroke within 7 days from the stroke onset and had relevant lesions on their brain images. One presenting symptom was selected in each patient through review of electronic medical records by an investigator, and those collected symptoms were classified into 5 symptom categories or the unclassified. Those 5 symptom categories were developed and are being used in the stroke awareness campaign in 2009 by the Korean Stroke Society (KSS). RESULTS: A total of 3027 patients (age, 66.57+/-12.6 years; male, 58.2%) were enrolled in our study. The rate of frequency of each categorized symptom was 54.9% for unilateral numbness or weakness, 27.5% for confusion or speech disturbance, 2.8% for visual disturbance, 10.5% for dizziness or gait disturbance, 2.3% for severe headache, and 2.0% for the unclassified. Ninety-eight percent of stroke patients were classified into one of the 5 symptom categories. Confusion or speech disturbance was associated with the shorter pre-hospital delay, whereas dizziness or gait disturbance with the longer delay. Dizziness was the most frequent symptom in TIA, and so was severe headache in hemorrhagic stroke. CONCLUSIONS: Our study shows that the 5 stroke warning symptoms of the KSS campaign represent well the presenting symptoms of Korean patients with acute stroke or TIA.