To compare geographical difference in the prevalence of isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) in between urban (Ansan) and rural (Ansung) Korean adults aged 40-69 years, 4351 men and 4604 women enrolled in the Korean Health and Genome Study were analysed. Information was collected regarding gender, alcohol intake, smoking status, household income, occupation, and years of education by trained interviewers. Eligible subjects included untreated hypertensive and normotensive subjects. ISH was defined as a systolic blood pressure (SBP) > or = 140 mmHg and diastolic BP <90 mmHg. The overall age-adjusted prevalence of ISH was 4.1%. The prevalence of ISH in Ansung (5.7%) was higher than in Ansan (2.5%, P < 0.05). Also it increased with increments of age, from 1.0 to 12.8% in Ansung (P < 0.05) and from 0.3 to 13.0% in Ansan (P < 0.05). In those with body mass index (BMI) > or = 30.0 kg/m2 in Ansung, the prevalence of ISH in women was twice as much as in men. The prevalence of ISH in obese men and women with a waist-hip ratio > or =1.0 and > or = 0.85, respectively, was more than that of nonobese men and women in both areas. In Korea, because of industrialization, the age distribution was skewed and the Korean population in rural areas is more aged. ISH will become a truly major health problem in rural area, because ISH is related to age, BMI and waist-hip ratio. Therefore, the Korean government will be required to institute different policies in the hypertension management to target populations in rural and urban areas.