The Asia–Pacific region has been marked as an area with a low incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), although confusion always existed as to whether this low incidence was a result of low diagnostic awareness, a high incidence of infective diarrhoea and its diagnostic overlap or a true low incidence. As epidemiological studies from this region are being made available it is clear that the incidence and prevalence rates of IBD in Asia–Pacific region are low compared with Europe and North America. They are however, increasing rapidly. There are substantial variations in the incidence and prevalence rates of IBD in various ethnic groups in Asia. The highest incidence rates are recorded from India, Japan and the Middle East and there exists a genetic predisposition of South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) to ulcerative colitis (UC). It appears that certain racial groups are more prone than others to develop IBD. For instance, Indians in South-East Asia have higher rates than Chinese and Malays. While there is a host genetic predisposition, environmental factor(s) may be responsible for this difference. The clinical phenotypes and complication rates of Asian IBD resemble those of the Caucasian population in general, but some heterogeneity is observed in different regions of Asia. There is no evidence of a north-south or an east-west divide in the Asia–Pacific region. The available studies suggest an increasing incidence of UC in the Asia–Pacific region and hence it is an appropriate time to launch well-designed epidemiological studies so that etiopathogenetic factors can be identified. There is a male predominance in Crohn's disease in the Asian population. The NOD2/CARD15 gene is not associated with CD in the Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Indian population.