Kim, who captured gold at the Vancouver Games in 2010 and controversially took silver in Sochi four years later, performed a brief skate routine at Friday's opening ceremony before receiving the torch and sending flames shooting up to the cauldron.
"I skated for 10 years but that was the first time I've skated so high up," the 27-year-old told reporters.
"When you're on the ice competing you don't really see the crowd. You're just thinking about not falling, you just focus on your skating.
"But that was the first time I've done anything in front of so many people. When I lit the flame it was a little surreal. I felt sort of numb with emotion."
Kim, a national idol in South Korea, took the flame from two members of the joint Korean women's hockey team -- Chung Su Hyon of North Korea and Park Jong-ah of South Korea at the top of a flight of 120 stairs.
Kim revealed that the torch handover had not been rehearsed.
"I was worried there might be some problem," she said. "When my eyes met the North Korean athlete's I just smiled. But I was nervous. When you're competing you can go back and make up for mistakes.
"But you only have one chance to light the Olympic flame and the whole world is watching. It all happened so quickly, it was kind of surreal.
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