Sure. The containers should be clean, but because it's an active fermentation (very similar to sauerkraut, other than the ingredient lists typically differing) the salt suppresses the activity of certain undesirable bacteria more than the desirable ones (which are naturally present on the plant leaves), and then desirable ones take over and make things highly acidic, (lactic and acetic acids) which also makes bad bacteria unhappy. If you are using an appropriate jar, the CO2 given off by the action of the friendly bacteria also make it anaerobic. And that's how (Kimchee, sauerkraut, fermented pickles) work.
Mind you, I figure all the "good bacteria" I need are on the leaves, and tend to steam (and then cool) my container, but I do go for overkill sometimes.
Vinegar pickles are not fermented - it's just fruit and enough vinegar to make an acidic environment (which makes the bad bacteria unhappy, still) and then heat processing to try and kill off as many bacteria of all strains as possible.
I'm not quite up for writing a tome, and many tomes have been written on the subject.