And having committed men forward in an increasingly desperate search for the three points - just one goal would have sufficed with Sweden beating Mexico 3-0 - they were inevitably caught late on with Kim Young-Gwon scoring in the 92nd minute.
The defeat leaves the 2014 world champions last in Group F and for the first time in German football history eliminated in the group stage of a World Cup.
Four minutes later German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was tackled as he roamed deep into South Korea's half, with a long ball giving Son Heung-Min the chance to slot home into an empty net from close range.
Unfortunately for South Korea, who had been given no hope following defeats to Mexico and Sweden, it was not enough to secure their passage to the last 16 for the first time since 2010.
South Korea also avoided another shameful record in their history book as the latest result didn't lead up to four consecutive defeats in worldwide matches, which would have been the first time for the senior national football team. "But the ball is round so I think there will be opportunities for us as well". (Victorious Sweden also advanced.) Mexican fans were deliriously thankful to South Korea, sharing photos of celebrations from around the world. During the game we were just concentrating on the game.More news: Mascherano denies rift between players and coach Sampaoli
"We beat the world champions and normally it's a dream and we can be proud of the team", Son said.
But in Kazan, 41,835 flabbergasted fans witnessed the fall of a titanic team that had made the semi-finals or beyond of every World Cup since 2002.
South Korea, for its part, needed a miracle to qualify for the next round; in the end, although neither side qualified, it was a match that will be remembered for years to come in the Asian nation.
Germany's Mats Hummels heads the ball at the Korean net late in the match.
Germany, meanwhile, will be desperate to show they have finally arrived at the tournament after two indifferent performances against Mexico, which they lost 1-0, and Sweden.
Similar scenes were repeated across the country, as Mexico's World Cup dream was kept alive.