Background: We previously showed that the number of publications in dermatology is increasing year by year, and positively correlates with improved economic conditions in mainland China, a still developing Asian country. However, the characteristics of publications in dermatology departments in more developed Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea are unknown. Methods: In the present study, publications from 2003 through 2012 in dermatology in Japan, South Korea and mainland China were characterized. All data were obtained from http://www.pubmed.com. Results: Dermatology departments in Japan published 4,094 papers, while mainland China and South Korea published 1528 and 1,758 articles, respectively. 48% of articles from dermatology in Japan were original research and 36% were case reports; The number of publications in Japan remained stable over time, but the overall impact factors per paper increased linearly over the last 10 year period (p < 0.05). In mainland China, 67% of articles from dermatology were original research, while 19% were case reports; The number of publications and their impact factors per paper increased markedly. In South Korea, 65% of articles from dermatology were original research and 20% were case reports. The impact factors per paper remained unchanged, despite of the fact that the number of publications increased over the last 10 year period (r2= 0.6820, p = 0.0032). Only mainland China showed a positive correlation of the number of publications with gross domestic product per capita during this study period. Conclusions: These results suggest that the total number of publications in dermatology correlates with economic conditions only in developing country, but not in more developed countries in Asia. The extent of economic development could determine both the publication quantity and quality. © 2014 Man et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.