Korea's Industrial Center

Ulsan is a seaside city on the southeast coast located directly north of Busan with a population of about 1.2 million people, most famous for its plethora of heavy industry and the massive presence of one of Korea’s largest conglomerates, Hyundai. What was a small city reliant on fishing and whaling began a rapid transformation into an industrial powerhouse in the 1960’s, and has since become Korea’s richest city, with the highest GDP per capita of any city in the country. It’s home to the world’s largest shipyard and automobile plant, both run by Hyundai, as well as one of the world’s largest oil refineries, owned by SK Energy, and many conglomerates, such as Samsung, LG, and Lotte, have important sectors of their companies located in Ulsan. The industrial zones in Ulsan, especially the oil refineries, may be a blight on the overall landscape of the city, but Hyundai’s massive shipyards are a sight to behold; the sheer size of the ships under construction and the facilities that build them are a clear demonstration of what man can accomplish.


With such a huge amount of economic activity, it’s no wonder the city also has a highly developed downtown area, with hyper-modern office towers and high-rise apartments dominating much of the cityscape. Ulsan’s Jung-gu District is home to the traditional Jungang Market, packed with butchers, greengrocers, and tons of restaurants, and the host of the Big Kid Night Market, which runs every Friday and Saturday from Spring to Fall. Across the way from Jungang Market is Ulsan’s main shopping district, Youth Street, filled with various name brand clothing stores and shops selling anything from phone cases to fashion accessories.


Despite the large presence of heavy industry in the city, Ulsan still has many natural wonders, including Daewangam, a beautiful seaside park with a large forest making way to a series of cliffs jutting over the ocean, and Gajisan Mountain, Ulsan’s largest mountain and the gateway to the beautiful Yeongnam Alps mountain range. Gajisan Mountain is also home to Seongnamsa Temple, a Buddhist temple built in the 10th-century that’s home to a large nunnery and numerous national cultural properties. A bit off the beaten track of Gajisan Mountain is Paraeso Falls, a gorgeous 15-meter high waterfall that brings a cool respite to hikers in the summer. And of course, Ulsan also has quite a few beaches, such as Jinha Beach, Ilsan Beach, and Jeongja Beach.


Since Ulsan sits right next to the sea it obviously has plenty of seafood restaurants, but one dish that’s unique to Ulsan is whale meat. There are a couple traditional restaurants that serve whale meat, whether raw, slice and boiled (suyuk), or served in a stew, carrying on Ulsan’s whaling past. A village in the far west Ulsan district of Eulju-gun called Eonyang is famous for its bulgogi, a special style known as Eonyang Bulgogi which is a large pancake of bulgogi grilled over charcoal.


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