Six strains of a hitherto unknown bacterium isolated from kimchi, a fermented vegetable food produced in Korea, were characterized by using phenotypic methods, phylogenetic analysis and DNA-DNA hybridization. The novel strains were gram-positive, non-spore-forming, heterofermentative and spherical or lenticular lactic acid bacteria. Comparative 16S rRNA gene sequencing and DNA relatedness demonstrated that the unknown strains represented a novel clade within the genus Leuconostoc and were close to, but distinct from, Leuconostoc gelidum. The unknown strains were clearly distinguished from all described members of the genus Leuconostoc by using RFLP pattems of genus-specific 16S rRNA gene PCR products with a single endonuclease, BsmAI. Based on the polyphasic evidence, the unknown isolates are classified as Leuconostoc inhae sp. nov. The type strain is strain IH003T (= KCTC 3774T = DSM 15101T).