With the game between the top two heading for a draw, Kim's strike snatched the victory which puts the 2002 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists clear at the top of the standings and in reach of a seventh successive finals appearance. Korea DPR, meanwhile, slip to second after their first defeat of the campaign.
In comparison to the four draws played out by the rivals in 2008, it was an entertaining affair especially after the break, when both sides had chances. The visitors almost took the lead straight from the first whistle as Hong Yong-Jo pounced upon a loose ball outside the area and fired a vicious shot that a flying Lee Woon-Jae just managed to turn away for a corner.
After the explosive start, the action steadied for the rest of the opening period as both sides sized each other up. Korea Republic's first real effort on goal came midway through the first half as defender Hwang Jae-Won headed a Ki Sung-Yung free-kick over the bar.
The home side started to gain the upper hand and after 27 minutes Park Chu-Young's downward header found Park Ji-Sung on the edge of the six-yard box, but under heavy pressure from white shirts, the Manchester United man shot straight at Ri Myung-Guk.
Korea DPR started the second half as they started the first and Jong Tae-se almost got the visitors on the scoresheet. The Kawasaki Frontale forward met Hong's cross but his powerful header looked goalbound until it was clawed away on the line by Lee.
The hosts should have broken the deadlock in the 65th minute when a Park Chu-Young shot found its way to an unmarked Lee Keun-Ho in the penalty area but the striker fired straight at the goalkeeper. That was as close as both teams came to scoring until three minutes from time when Kim's floated free-kick from the right side caused confusion in the visiting defence and ended up going straight into the back of the net.