The South Korean was making his first appearance at Le Golf National but you would not have known it as he made six birdies in seven holes to sign for a bogey-free 64 and hit the top of the leaderboard at seven under.
English pair Richard Mansell and Matthew Southgate were at six under along with Spaniard Alfredo Garcia-Heredia and Swede Joakim Lagergren, who was facing a 28-foot putt for par on the last when play was suspended due to fading light.
There was then a group of ten players in a tie for sixth at five under.
Kim burst onto the DP World Tour scene with a third-placed finish at last season's Genesis Scottish Open and since then has become a global star, winning twice on the PGA TOUR and making his Presidents Cup debut.
He finished second at this summer's Open Championship for his best finish at a Major and continued to impress on day one in France despite playing in the tougher early conditions as the rain hammered the 2018 Ryder Cup venue.
“I didn’t really expect anything," he said. "It played really hard today with the rain, this course when it starts to rain and with the wind up, it’s not easy.
"I knew I was playing well and I just tried to play the round as stress-free as possible. I definitely did that today. I hit it really well, positioned myself well off the tee and definitely feeling good going into the next three days.
“I played last week and just with France being so close to the UK, it was just a great move.
"Knowing the Olympics is going to be here next year, if I can qualify then it’s definitely good prep. At least seeing the course before coming here, if I get the chance next year, just having that and knowing the course is going to help. It’s a bonus for me.”
Kim made a quiet start after teeing off on the tenth, getting up and down on the par-five 14th for his only gain of the back nine.
But he came to life after tackling the famously tough 18th, rattling off six birdies in seven holes to catapult to the top of the leaderboard.
He made an 18-footer on the first, put his tee-shot on the par-three next to six feet, made another up-and-down birdie on a par-five at the third and left himself a tap-in on the fourth.
A four-foot chance for another birdie was missed on the fifth but he almost holed out from 100 yards on the sixth and holed a three-footer on the seventh.
Southgate was the only other player to get to seven under on day one, making a two-putt birdie on the fourth before netting a hat-trick of gains from inside 12 feet from the fifth.
He picked up another shot on the par-five ninth after laying up and then hit a smart approach into the tenth before holing a long putt on the 12th, with a bogey on the last dropping him back.
Mansell made birdies on the fourth, seventh and 11th before leaving himself just three feet for eagle on the 14th. Another gain followed on the 16th but he gave the shot straight back before holing a 20-footer on the last.
Garcia-Heredia was bogey-free as he hit smart irons into the 11th, 12th and 16th, took advantage of the par-five 14th and third and holed a long putt on the fifth.
Lagergren made a 15-footer for an eagle on the third and a birdie on the ninth either side of a long putt on the sixth and brilliant tee-shot on the eighth. He holed from off the green on the 13th but found water on the last and was left with that test for par.
South African Louis de Jager, Scottish pair Ewen Ferguson and David Law, Swede Simon Forsström, Japanese duo Kazuki Higa and Ryo Hisatsune, Dane Rasmus Højgaard, Spaniard Adrian Otaegui and Englishmen Jordan Smith and Andrew Wilson were two shots off the lead.