Sven-Goran Eriksson's side struck twice inside 20 minutes as they tore into their limited opponents from the outset, but only frustration followed in their final Group G game.
The Africans had 14 shots, 10 on target, as they dominated the first half and sensed an unlikely chance to reach the last 16. But North Korea, fearing more humiliation after their 7-0 hammering by Portugal, closed ranks after the break and only substitute Kalou could break through.
Ivory Coast arrived at the Mbombela Stadium knowing they needed to win, hope Brazil could beat Portugal and see a nine-goal swing in the process. Despite the seemingly impossible nature of their task - rendered irrelevant anyway by Portugal's draw - they were determined to try and initially overran North Korea with embarrassing ease.
Kader Keita broke into the North Korea box in the first minute but Ri Myong-guk saved at the expense of a corner. Ri then grabbed a 40-yard Romaric free-kick at the second attempt before Gervinho jinked his way to the byline and pulled back across the face of goal. No-one was able to turn the ball in on that occasion but Didier Drogba did head in after 10 minutes, only to be flagged offside.
Gervinho then showed great skill on the edge of the box but Ri was equal to his shot. The threatened goal duly arrived after 13 minutes as Toure took a neat touch from an Arthur Boka cross and coolly placed a shot into the bottom corner from 18 yards. Romaric then clipped the post from distance before a fierce Drogba shot rattled the underside of the bar and bounced off the line to allow Romaric to head in the second.
The unlikeliest of dreams was still alive although North Korea at least threatened as Hong Yong-jo sent two long-range free-kicks narrowly wide. Normal service was soon resumed however as Keita just missed the target with a thunderous volley and Gervinho skipped into the area and shot across goal. Ivory Coast ended the first half with another chance as Emmanuel Eboue shot over.
They began the second period in similar fashion as Eboue forced North Korea to clear off the line but the Asian side at last managed to find some fortitude. Deploying five in defence in a damage-limitation exercise, they quashed the threat of the Elephants for a period and even enjoyed some possession.
Yet Ivory Coast still seemed the side most likely to create chances and Drogba headed wide before Gervinho failed to turn in a Keita cross on the hour. Kalou entered the action but spurned a good chance when he scooped over at the end of a neat move.
He made up for that when he volleyed in a Boka cross nine minutes from time but by then the players were going through the motions. Aruna Dindane thought he had added a fourth late on but his effort was disallowed for a foul.