With a ticket for the final on the line and both teams having played to a tiring regulation time draw in their respective quarter final matches, South Korea set the stage for their first continental title in 55 years with an excitingly high-tempo 2-0 win.
South Korea were the first to threaten within three minutes of play, when Ki Sung-yueng crossed and Han Kyo-won missed the ball with his head by a fraction.
The Swansea man then earned a yellow card four minutes later with a late sliding challenge to bring down Ajmed Kalaf Al-Muntafik.
The water-logged pitch slowed the ball down as the rain continued to fall, to which the South Koreans were quick to adapt and allow the Iraqis to chase their possession.
Bayer Leverkusen star Son Heung-min threatened from distance to test Jalal Hassan Hachim’s reflexes, tipping the ball over the bar, before a free kick moments later by Kim Jin-su met the head of Lee Jeong-hyub to put the Taeguk Warriors in front.
The rain stopped for the remainder of the half, although the deafening sounds of 36,053 fans at both ends reverberating around the stadium created different problems as South Korea coach Uli Stielike attempted to tell his men to play at a more controlled pace.
Some nervous defending in the last five minutes of the first half gave Iraq the chance to push men forward, but the Lions Mesopotamia were unable to turn their final passes into chances.
Iraq captain Younis Mahmoud and Park Joo-ho were involved in an incident near the end of the regulation 45 minutes, to which referee Ryuji Sato was quick to jump in and dissolve the situation before it escalated into a brawl between the teams.
The scoreline was doubled minutes into the second half, when Lee Jung-hyub brought down a high cross with his chest into the path of Kim Yong-gwon, whose shot from just outside the box received a deflection from Iraqi defender Salam Shakir to send past Jalal Hassan.
Jalal Hassan was later forced into two reflexive saves in a matter of moments, when Ki Sung-yueng’s mid-range attempt was palmed away before Son Heung-min attempted a shot of his own to be pushed away by the Arbil goalkeeper.
Ahmed Ibrahim had a chance to put the Iraqis back in the game shortly after the 70 minute mark when Kim Jin-hyeon failed to come off his line in time to clear a crossed ball, but the defender’s header went over the crossbar.
Sato dismissed a penalty in the 84th minute for the Iraqis when he adjudged Marwan Hussein to have gone down too easily under pressure when he received the ball inside the South Korean penalty area.
Five minutes of additional time were given for the events of the second half, with Lee Jyeong-hyub landing heavily from an awkward aerial challenge with Ahmed Ibrahim, but he was given the okay by his medical staff to see the game out until the final whistle.
South Korea will finish their challenge for silverware in the final on January 31 in Sydney, where they will face the winner of Tuesday’s semi final match between Australia and UAE in Newcastle. Iraq will hope to end their campaign on a high note when they play the loser of the same match in a bout for third place, also in Newcastle on January 30.