Despite watching victory and two valuable points slip away in the final minutes, South Korea coach Hong Myung-Bo was able to praise his team for tightening up at the back.
South Korea took a gift lead in in the 68th minute when Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev waved at a speculative effort from Lee Keun-Ho, only to break down and give up the equaliser six minutes later.
"In such a tournament, the first match is the most difficult," said Hong, who captained the nation to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, said through a translator. "There is a lot of pressure on it so I thought the players played very well.''
The fall-out from last week's final warm-up game, a friendly against Ghana in Miami, sent South Korea off to the World Cup finals in a fog of depression as the Black Stars had plundered an easy 4-0 win.
"The heavy defeat against Ghana was not important as it was just part of the process," Hong told SBS after Tuesday's match. "We focused our rhythm and organisation on this match.
"I think it worked well. The condition of players and organisation of the team was good."
South Korea next face Algeria in Porto Alegre on Sunday, three hours after Russia kick off against Group H leaders Belgium in Rio de Janeiro.