Ulsan is the industrial powerhouse of South Korea, forming the heart of the Ulsan Industrial District. It has the world's largest automobile assembly plant operated by the Hyundai Motor Company; the world's largest shipyard, operated by Hyundai Heavy Industries; and the world's second largest oil refinery, owned by SK Energy. In 2012, Ulsan had a GDP per capita of $79,623, the highest of any region in South Korea.
Ulsan is divided into four gu (districts) and one gun (county):
As the centre of the Ulsan Industrial District, the city is the corporate base of the multinational Hyundai conglomerate. Up to 1962, Ulsan operated as a fishing port and market centre. As part of South Korea's first five-year economic plan, Ulsan became an open port. Additionally, the government encouraged development of major industrial plants and factories: an oil refinery, fertiliser plants, automobile production, and heavy industries all were developed here. The shipbuilding port Bangeojin was annexed by the city in 1962.
Ulsan is currently the home of the world's largest automobile assembly plant, operated by Hyundai Motor. Its integrated design of related functions was inspired by the Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, designed by American architect Albert Kahn and developed by industrialist Henry Ford beginning in the late 1920s in the United States. The city also has the world's largest shipyard, operated by Hyundai Heavy Industries; and the world's second largest oil refinery, owned by SK Energy.
In November 2011, SB LiMotive opened an advanced lithium-ion battery production plant in Ulsan. SB LiMotive was a 50-50 consortium of Samsung SDI and Robert Bosch GmbH. In September 2012, Samsung SDI purchased the Robert Bosch GmbH portion of SB LiMotive for $95 million to gain 100% ownership of the Ulsan production facility. The Ulsan plant is one of Samsung SDI's trio of advanced car-battery production facilities: another is in Xian, China, and the third is in Göd, 25 kilometers north of Budapest, Hungary. This was a former Austria-based battery pack division of Magna Steyr and was acquired by Samsung SDI in 2015. In 2016-2017, the Samsung SDI Ulsan plant trained several employees for the Samsung SDI Hungary plant. The Samsung SDI Ulsan plant supplies Hyundai and other automotive producers with advanced batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles. The Ulsan plant had supplied the BMW i3, but the Samsung SDI Hungary plant will provide the BMW i3, i5, and X5 with advanced Li-ion batteries.
The city transport department plans to build a light-rail line. The public transportation system is as good as any other major Korean city. The bus system shows a specific ETA at most bus stops.
Ulsan Airport, constructed in 1970 and expanded in 1997, has more than 20 flights per day to and from Seoul's Gimpo International Airport and 4 flights per week to and from Jeju International Airport. In November 2010, Korea's high-speed train network, the KTX, was extended to Ulsan. This provides a high-speed link to Seoul, with a running time of just over 2 hours. The new KTX station (Ulsan Station) is in nearby Eonyang, with a series of express buses (5001-5004), as well as some city buses serving the new station. The original city station has been renamed Taehwa River Station.
The city hosts the K League Classic football club Ulsan Hyundai FC. After the 2002 FIFA World Cup, they relocated from their former stadium in Jung-gu, which is now a municipal ground, to the Munsu Stadium, which hosted several matches during the 2002 World Cup. Ulsan was home to another football team, Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dolphin FC, which played in the Korea National League until 2016, when it was dissolved.
It is also home to the University of Ulsan and its sports programs. Ulsan also hosts Korean Basketball League team Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus. Their home ground is Dongchun Gymnasium, which located in jung-gu ulsan.
Ulsan is bounded on the east by the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Busan is 70 km to the south.
Ulsan has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa/Cwa), with cold but dry winters, and hot, humid summers. Monthly means range from 2.0 °C (35.6 °F) in January to 25.9 °C (78.6 °F) in August, with diurnal temperature ranges generally low. Its location on the Korean peninsula results in a seasonal lag. The warmest days occur in August and averaging very near 30 °C (86 °F). Precipitation is relatively low in the winter months, but there is high rainfall from April to September.
There are seven tall mountains (Gajisan, Sinbulsan, Ganwolsan, Cheonhwangsan, Yeongchuksan, Goheonsan, Jaeyaksan) over 1,000m above sea level. Sinbulsan (MT.) Ridge, where grasses turn silver in autumn, is one of the best sights to see in the Yeongnam Alps. Eoksae festival is held every early October in Ganwoljae, which is best known for its colony of silver grass.
Oegosan Onggi village
Korea's largest traditional folk Onggi (earthware) village is Oegosan. The traditional Onggi (earthware) manufacturing process is carried on here and is open to tourists, including Onggi workshops and kilns. The Ulsan Onggi museum offers a variety of information related to Onggi and displays a diversity of this earthware.
Jangsaengpo Whale museum & Whale Ecological Experience Hall
As the only whale museum in Korea, Jangsaengpo whale museum collects, maintains and displays whaling-related artifacts. They have become more rare since 1986, when whaling was internationally prohibited in order to protect the species. The museum provides a variety of information related to whales and marine ecosystems; it is a space for education, research and experience. Whale cruises depart from Jangsaengpo port.
Ulsan Industry Park has been leading the Pacific Rim industry in the 21st century. Ulsan has Hyundai Motor Company, with the world's largest single-purpose plant; Hyundai Heavy Industries, the biggest heavy industry leader in the world; Hyundai Mipo Shipbuilding, and Petrochemical Park, leaders in Korea's chemistry industry.
Ulsan has beautiful beaches (Jinha, Ilsan). Daewangam Park features a lush, hundred-year-old pine forest. Ganjeolgot Cape is noted as the first place to see the sunrise from the Korean peninsula. A sunrise festival is held every New Year's Day.
Ulsan is one of the filming locations of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation 2012 South Korean television melodrama series May Queen, starring Han Ji-hye, Kim Jae-won and Jae Hee.