Well I have a slight improvement upon the other recipes you might have seen :) I've tried this one and had success :) My Korean boyfriend approved (even though he's used to the store bought with sugar more :P) as well :)
The recipe does call for fish sauce, but it uses fruit in place of refined sugar and it took me a while to find that!
Since I'm not sure if I can post a link here, I'll tell you how to find the step by step recipe with instructions :)
Just Google Dr. Ben Kim Kimchi
If you want the guide with pictures you just click the link on that page =)
P.S. I think the fish sauce is just for flavor and does not help the fermenting process so... assuming that I'm sure you could just do without it if you don't want to use it. :)
Just cut up the vegetables you like, maybe add some ginger, garlic, onion, and hot pepper for a traditional flavor, and massage for a while with plenty of salt. It should taste pleasantly salty when you're done, and the vegetables should be softer and be emitting juices. Pack into a jar (or whatever), and try to make sure that liquid covers the top of the stuff. Add some salt water if you don't have enough of the vegetable juices. Cover loosely. Check every few days until it tastes good to you.
Or you can follow a recipe and just omit the sugar and fish sauce.
I've made kim chi by eye/instinct many times, and never had a problem. As long as you have enough liquid and salt, you shouldn't need to worry about "bad" bacteria. I often also put a teaspoon or so of unpasteurized miso in the mix (of about 2 heads cabbage), just to make sure the right bacteria gets a good foothold.