The aim of this study was to compare laparoscopic and laparotomic surgical staging in patients with stage I epithelial ovarian cancer in terms of feasibility and safety. A retrospective chart review was undertaken of all patients with apparent stage I epithelial ovarian cancer who underwent laparoscopic (laparoscopy group) or laparotomic (laparotomy group) surgical staging at the Center for Uterine Cancer, National Cancer Center, Korea, between January 2001 and August 2006. During the study period, 19 patients underwent laparotomic surgical staging and 17 patients underwent laparoscopic surgical staging. No cases were converted from laparoscopy to laparotomy. The two groups were similar in terms of age, body mass index, procedures performed, number of lymph nodes retrieved, and operating time. The laparoscopy group had less estimated blood loss (P = 0.001), faster return of bowel movement (P < 0.001), and a shorter postoperative hospital stay (P = 0.002) compared to the laparotomy group. Transfusions were required only in two laparotomy patients, and postoperative complications occurred only in four laparotomy patients. However, two patients with stage IA grade 1 and 2 disease in laparoscopy group had recurrence with one patient dying of disease. The accuracy and adequacy of laparoscopic surgical staging were comparable to laparotomic approach, and the surgical outcomes were more favorable than laparotomic approach. However, the oncologic safety of laparoscopic staging was not certain. This is the first report on the possible hazards of laparoscopic staging in early-stage ovarian cancer. In the absence of a large prospective trial, this technique should be performed cautiously.