In the two decades since, none of the continent's contenders have managed to make it past the first knockout stage even -- from 18 attempts prior to this year's tournament.
Having qualified for the round of 16 this time around in Qatar, there is a chance the Taegeuk Warriors could emulate the feat.
It is a slim chance though, at least on paper, given the team they are coming up against in the last 16 are none other than record five-time champions Brazil.
If that was not already a tough enough task, Brazil are also set to regain star man Neymar after he sat out their last two games in Group G through injury.
While the odds are firmly stacked against them, it does mean that they can approach the tie without too much pressure and the fact that it is a one-off tie in a knockout tournament gives South Korea coach Paulo Bento reason to be hopeful.
"We're up against world-class players (but) we're not intimidated. In our squad, we have world-class players," Bento said on Sunday in his pre-match news conference.
"One match -- it's not an entire tournament. We have one chance. Most important is we show we are a team that wants to win, compete and fight until the last whistle.
"Based on that, everything is a victory."
And if South Korea do fight as a team and show no fear for Brazil, there is a possibility they could pull off what would arguably be their biggest upset ever.
That have been precedents. One as recently as Friday when they came from behind to beat Portugal 2-1 with a dramatic 91st-minute winner from Hwang Hee-chan to seal their progress into the knockout round.
Then, of course, should they need further inspiration, it is impossible not to look back at the famed class of 2002, who boasted players who all went on to achieve legendary status in South Korean football such as Park Ji-sung, Ahn Jung-hwan, Cha Du-ri and Lee Young-pyo.
Having already claimed a famous win -- coincidentally against Portugal again -- on the final day of the group stage to advance, that South Korea outfit would go on to eliminate heavyweights Italy with a golden goal winner from Ahn, and then proceeded to trounce fellow European powerhouses Spain on penalties following a 0-0 draw.
A narrow 1-0 defeat to Germany in the semifinals ultimately denied South Korea the opportunity to take on Brazil in the final, as they eventually had to settle for fourth place following a playoff loss to Turkey.
On Monday night, they get the chance to do so albeit slightly earlier in the tournament but with plenty still on the line.
South Korea's 2014 World Cup captain Koo Ja-cheol, while speaking to ESPN before the start of the tournament, did encourage the team to play without the burden of having to live up to the class of 2002 -- and he certainly had a valid point.
But channeling the never-say-die spirit of their predecessors is different -- beneficial.
If the Taegeuk Warriors are to claim a victory that will send shockwaves through the footballing world, they will need plenty of that against Brazil.