Kim was born in 1936 in Moscow to Kim Chersan, a Korean immigrant, and Nina Valentinovna Vsesvyatskaya, a Russian. His parents were victims of the Great Purge of 1937 and 1938, in which his father was executed and his mother was sentenced as a "family member of a traitor of the Motherland" to five years in a labor camp and three years of exile, so that Kim didn't see her until age 9. She was rehabilitated during the Khrushchev Thaw period in 1958, but before that, she was under the "101st kilometer" law and could not live in Moscow, so Kim's family settled in Maloyaroslavets, Kaluga Oblast. In 1951, the family moved to Turkmenia. Kim returned to Moscow in 1954 to enter the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute.
In 1959, Kim graduated from the Department of History and Philology of the Pedagogical Institute. During his student years, he began writing poems and setting some of them to music. Upon graduation, he was sent to teach in the village of Il'pyrsky, Kamchatka, near Anapka, where he taught for three years. He taught history, literature, geography, and other subjects, and also directed a number of musical plays with the schoolchildren. Since then, the sea has become one of the main themes of his songs. After returning to Moscow, Kim taught school, and at the same time participated in the dissident movement, which cost him his job in 1968. Subsequently, Kim earned a living by writing songs for plays and movies as well as publishing plays under the pseudonym Yu. Mikhailov, which he used until 1986. At the same time, while he was barred from giving concerts, he continued his singing underground.
With the advent of glasnost, Kim was finally able to perform legally. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, he has been acclaimed throughout the Russian-speaking world and has performed in numerous locations in Russia, Europe, and the United States. He has received numerous awards, such as the Bulat Okudzhava Prize of the Russian Federation.
Today, Yuliy Kim's discography includes over 20 titles on CD, audio and video tape, and DVD. His songs have been included in almost all anthologies of author’s song as well as many anthologies of modern Russian poetry.