Sweden, competing at their first World Cup since 2006 after knocking out Italy in the playoffs started the game with real attacking vigour and intent as they looked to start Russia 2018 on the front foot.
However, it took the European side over an hour to break the deadlock, as their furious appeals saw VAR award a penalty for Kim Min-Woo's clumsy challenge on Viktor Claesson.
Captain Andreas Granqvist slotted the subsequent spot-kick with relative ease to net the only goal of the game in what was an evenly fought Group F encounter that could have swung either way.
The Asian giants, who were competing in their ninth successive World Cup finals were largely disappointing throughout, struggling to create many clear-cut opportunities - despite the presence of Tottenham superstar Son Heung-Min.
It proved to be a largely scrappy affair with Sweden's Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen having the best chances in the game.
But it was the VAR decision that decided the result in the end, with a silly challenge from Min-Woo being rightfully punished at second viewing.
The result means Mexico, 1-0 winners over world champions Germany on Sunday, and Sweden have a three-point lead after the first round of matches in Group F.
Sweden XI: Robin Olsen; Mikael Lustig, Pontus Jansson, Andreas Granqvist, Ludwig Augustinsson; Viktor Claesson, Albin Ekdal, Sebastian Larsson, Emil Forsberg; Marcus Berg, Ola Toivonen.
Substitutes: Marcus Rohden, Martin Olsson, Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Filip Helander, Gustav Svensson, Karl-Johan Johnsson, Jimmy Durmaz, Victor Lindelof, Emil Krafth, Oscar Hiljemark, Isaac Thelin, John Guidetti.
South Korea XI: Cho Hyun-woo, Lee Yong, Kim Young-gwon, Jan Hyun-soo, Park Joo-ho; Kim Shin-wook, Koo Ja-cheol, Ki Sung-yueng, Lee Jae-sung; Hwang Hee-chan, Son Heung-min.
Substitutes: Kim Seung-gyu, Lee Seung-woo, Yun Young-sun, Kim Jin-hyeon, Jung Woo-young, Ju Se-jong, Moon Seon-min, Hong Chul, Ko Yo-han, Jung Seung-hyun, Oh Ban-suk, Kim Min-woo.