This study evaluated carnitine and lipid status of fifty Korean newborns. Each subject was assigned to two groups: one according to body weight at birth and the other according to gestational age. Serum total, HDL- and LDL-cholesterol were significantly lower and triacylglycerols were significantly higher, by 14 %, in the low birth weight infant (LBWI, 1310–2490 g) group compared with the normal birth weight infant (NBWI, 2570–4420 g) group. Neither birth weight nor gestational age affected serum total carnitine concentrations. However, serum ASAC (acid-soluble acylcarnitine) concentrations were 43 % higher (P < 0·001) in the LBWI group compared with the NBWI group, and approximately twice as high (P < 0·05) in the 28–32 gestational age group compared with the other gestational age groups. NEC (non-esterified acyl carnitine) fractions were significantly higher in the NBWI and 28–32 week groups (P < 0·001 and P < 0·05); consequently serum acyl/NEC carnitine ratios were four times higher in the LBWI group compared with the NBWI group and 2–3 times higher in the 25–32 week age group compared with the more advanced gestational age groups. Urinary carnitine excretion, including the NEC fraction and total carnitine, was significantly higher (P < 0·001) for LBWI than for NBWI. By gestational age, NEC excretion of the 28–32 week group was significantly (P < 0·05) higher than that of the other two groups, but total carnitine excretion was not different among the groups. This study demonstrated that Korean immature and preterm newborns have higher serum triacylglycerol concentrations but lower carnitine status than NBWI. Therefore, the lower carnitine status and moderately higher triacylglycerols may suggest that LBWI in Korea might be at risk for poor carnitine status and decreased capacity to utilise fatty acids for energy.