Chinese characters appear in the currently used Korean language, and the system used for writing system the Korean language consists of a mixture of the Korean alphabet and Chinese characters. In the present study, neural mechanisms involved in reading a single Chinese character words and naming pictures by Korean native speakers were investigated using a functional magnetic resonance imaging technique. The findings show a right hemispheric dominance within the occipito-temporal and the left middle/medial frontal area for both reading Chinese characters and naming pictures. This should reflect the specific visual processing of reading Chinese characters. Additional activations in inferior frontal and cingulage gyrus were also observed. The activations of inferior parietal region and thalamus are of interest, since we assume that these activations are strongly related to the phonological status of single Chinese character words rather than two character words that are typically used by Korean native speakers. (C) 2005 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.