The five-times winners struggled to penetrate in a tight opening period before Maicon and Elano scored after the interval to set them on their way to victory.
But there was no end to Korea DPR's defiance and Yun-Nam Ji guided a consolation effort past Julio Cesar with just over a minute remaining.
It was certainly an opening period that went against expectations with the Koreans strangling the midfield and denying the Brazilians any space.
After spending the second half of the season on loan at Santos, Manchester City forward Robinho made a bright start with a number of sparkling runs.
Carlos Dunga's Brazil were determined to make an early breakthrough but were limited to strikes from outside the area.
Elano drilled over and Robinho and Michel Bastos also failed to trouble the Korean goalkeeper Myong-Guk Ri.
Korea DPR grew in confidence and Tae-Se Jong and Jong-Hyok Cha each had efforts on goal as the minnows managed to press forward.
Kaka slipped through for Robinho but the forward failed to worry goalkeeper Ri in Brazil's only penetrative move of the first half.
Brazil's Inter Milan defender Maicon had another long-range strike pushed away by Ri as the South Americans grew more desperate for a breakthrough.
Kwang-Chon Ri dragged wide after a breakaway from the impressive Jong set up more pressure for the Koreans.
Robinho was always Brazil's best option and another sparkling break created space for Bastos to hit a drive that was deflected over but Dunga's side were held at the interval.
Elano had another couple of efforts blocked as Brazil poured forward after the interval.
But they finally broke through the stubborn defence to take the lead nine minutes after the restart.
Elano picked out the wing-back's over-lapping run and the Inter player fired in from a narrow angle.
Without an international goal since September, Luis Fabiano wasted a good opportunity to extend the advantage.
But Elano doubled the lead when he was picked out by a wonderful pass by Robinho and guided a shot into the corner of the net in the 72nd minute.
However, the Koreans left their mark when Ji broke into the area and clip into the back of the net late on.
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Bastos; Melo (Ramires 84), Silva; Elano (Alves 73), Kaka (Nilmar 78), Robinho; Fabiano
Subs (not used): Gomes, Doni, Luisao, Thiago Silva, Gilberto, Josue, Julio Baptista, Kleberson, Grafite
Korea DPR (5-4-1): Myong-Guk Ri; Kwang-Chon Ri, Nam-C Pak,In-Guk Mun (K-I Kim 81), Chol-Jin Pak, Jong-Hyok Cha; Yong-Hak Ahn, Jun-Il Ri, Yun-Nam Ji, Yong-Jo Hong; Tae-Se Jong
Subs (not used): Myong-Gil Kim, Myong-Won Kim, Nam-Chol Pak, Song-Chol Nam, Kwang-Hyok Ri, Yong-Jun Kim, Chol-Myong Ri, Kyong-Il Kim, Sung Hyok Pak, Chol-Hyok An, Kum-Chol Choe