The triple Ryder Cup-winning star began and ended with bogeys but managed to grab three birdies in cold and windy conditions on the Blackstone course in suburban Icheon.
Frenchman Victor Dubuisson heads the field in carding a four under par 68 to lead by two strokes from five players, including World No. 45 Paul Casey and Scotland’s Richie Ramsay.
Errol Flynn-lookalike Dubuisson is a former European and Mexican amateur champion and is competing on the Tour for a second year.
McGinley is among 11 players sharing seventh place, including Australia’s Adam Scott, who is contesting the event for a first time.
However the cold and windy conditions made it a tough day for all competitors.
“When you have swirling winds it is always difficult and there is a lot of tiers on the greens that made distance control important,” said McGinley.
“So it was hard to get it onto the correct tier but I battled well and I am pleased with one under par.
“I was not surprised anyone didn’t get away to five or six under par as you would have needed a lot of luck given the conditions.”
McGinley was the very last player into the Korean event and again qualifying off the all-time European Tour money list.
McGinley is lying 22nd among the top-40 money earners with €10.5m but well behind front-running Lee Westwood, who has banked €26.3m in his European Tour career.
McGinley has contested every Ballantine’s Championship since finishing third behind Graeme McDowell in the inaugural event, back in 2008.
Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin is next best of the Irish posting three outward nine birdies but also three bogeys on his inward nine.
Damien McGrane was one under par with two holes to play but bogeyed his closing two holes in a round of 73.
Esker Hill’s Shane Lowry was one under par after nine but ended with a 74.
And Darren Clarke’s honeymoon came to a crashing halt with the British Open champion signing for a five over par 77.