Hamilton, who has been troubled and tormented following one of the most wretched runs of his career, conjured a blistering qualifying performance to top the timesheets.
Unlike in the last two races when Hamilton missed out on a second crack at pole in the top-10 shoot-out, the 26-year-old was faultless on this occasion.
In Singapore three weeks ago a problem with the refuelling system left Hamilton sat in the McLaren team garage while his rivals fought it out.
Last Saturday in Japan it was an error of Hamilton's own making as his attempt at playing cat and mouse with his fellow drivers in the dying stages badly backfired.
On this occasion, at the Korea International Circuit, he and the team were exemplary, although from Hamilton's demeanour in the aftermath you would have thought he was on the back row.
Barely a smile creased his lips, again epitomising the inner demons he is coming to terms with following a season filled with crashes, penalties and incidents.
Simply asked if everything was okay after finally ending Red Bull's run of 16 consecutive poles, Hamilton said: "I'm happy, very happy. I'm happy to be here."
It did not look like it, but he added: "It's been a tough second half of the season, so it's great to be on pole.
"It's probably one of the first positives I've had for a while, and to be back on pole is a great feeling, of course.
"But it doesn't really mean a huge amount because Sunday is what counts, although I am proud of my team and what they have achieved over the last couple of races.
"For (team-mate) Jenson (Button) to have won the last race, and for us to be on the front two rows again, the only ones competing with Red Bull, I'm very happy about it.
"And the support I've had from them has been just incredible, so to be up here is a great feeling.
"As I say, Sunday is the important day. I've had some difficult races in the past, but hopefully I'll try to redeem myself.
"We're now looking to get some really strong points for the team, who have put in an incredible amount of effort to get us where we are today.
"A big thank you to them. I hope me and Jenson can repay them."
Hamilton was fastest across all three qualifying sessions, with his second run in Q3 vital, eventually defeating world champion Sebastian Vettel by 0.222secs.
It means Vettel's Red Bull team have been deprived of becoming the first team in F1 history to claim every pole throughout the course of the season.
Recently-crowned two-time champion Vettel insisted it was something he had not thought about, but at least acknowledged McLaren's speed and especially that of Hamilton who now has 19 poles to his name.
"McLaren were very competitive yesterday, although the conditions were completely different with the wet weather," said Vettel.
"But you could see they were a fair chunk ahead of everyone else, including us.
"In the dry this morning they looked extremely quick, but again we pushed them very hard and got very close, closer than they probably expected, and closer than we expected in some respects.
"So we did a very good job, and we also saved all our prime tyres (the soft tyre that is slightly slower but more durable) which will be crucial for Sunday.
"Whether we can use it to our advantage or not remains to be seen."
Vettel did just enough to deprive McLaren of an all-front row for the first time in 41 races, knocking Button down to third at the death.
Button said: "It's not perfect, but I'm reasonably happy with where we are, we can race well from there, and there's still a lot to play for.
"But we really haven't a clue what's going to happen in the race with tyre degradation and high fuel, and what the car will feel like on high fuel.
"So it's a little of the unknown, but looking forward to the challenge."
Mark Webber starts fourth in his Red Bull, with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso fifth and sixth for Ferrari.
Paul di Resta lines up ninth in his Force India after making the top 10 for the fourth time this season.