Ghana and Portugal, the other two teams in Group H, appeared to be the real winners after a contest which failed to produce a shot on target.
Diego Godin and the best player on the pitch Federico Valverde, from distance late on, were both denied by the woodwork but neither goalkeeper was sufficiently troubled.
Team-mate Luis Suarez is a fading force and his World Cup swansong began inauspiciously as the former Liverpool and Barcelona striker, who turns 36 in January, looked a shadow of his former self.
He played through the middle of a front three, meaning Liverpool's new Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez was posted out on the left.
It was not an unfamiliar role for the 23-year-old as he has performed it for Benfica and Jurgen Klopp's side to good effect but it restricted his attacking threat as he was required to do his fair share of tracking back.
Suarez's lack of pace and mobility left him isolated and it was no surprise to see him replaced by Edinson Cavani just past the hour having barely made an impression.
South Korea's own big hero Son Heung-min, wearing a protective facemask after surgery to a fractured eye socket sustained playing for Tottenham, also struggled to influence the game.
His one half-chance came in the 90th minute from 20 yards out but he dragged his effort just wide.
South Korea dominated early possession but their opponents were happy, in the main, to sit back and let them have it as the Asian side struggled to create genuine chances and, in fact, conceded the better ones.
Real Madrid's Valverde fired a snap half-volley just over before Nunez, who up to that point had been more engaged in tracking back down the left, mis-kicked when attempting to connect with Facundo Pellistri's cross.
Nunez was then denied by goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu, although that was mainly the fault of Mathias Olivera who overhit his pass inside the penalty area when well placed.
In such a tight game, taking such chances looked like being pivotal and Hwang Ui-jo should have scored but failed to even hit the target when he leant back and ballooned over Kim Moon-hwan's cross.
A post denied Uruguay the opener two minutes before the break when Godin's downward header from a corner hit the base of the upright with the keeper beaten.
The introduction of Cavani, a month younger than Suarez, in the 64th minute injected some urgency in and around the penalty area and he soon had a shot charged down before teeing up Nunez to bend an effort just wide of Seung-gyu's left-hand post.
Valverde let fly from 25 yards only to see his effort rebound off a post while Son's attempt was off target.