Ulsan: Korea’s economic miracle turns to business events

For generations, the southeastern city that’s home to Hyundai has been South Korea’s industrial powerhouse. Now, with an eco-friendly outlook, the city is leveraging its whaling and engineering heritage to compete as a MICE destination

WHEN it comes to considering the biggest and best across Asia, the southeastern Korean city of Ulsan is likely to be far from the thoughts of many event planners. Unless, of course, their clients happen to be involved in automobile manufacturing, petrochemicals and shipbuilding. Then we are really scaling up.

Let’s look over a few of the biggest and best Ulsan has given the world, before understanding what this means for business event planners choosing their next meetings and incentive destination:

– As the home of Hyundai, Ulsan boasts the world’s largest automobile plant on a single site, producing an average of 6,000 cars a day and 1.4 million year. Once ready, thousands of them take their place on a 60,000-plus tonne dedicated cargo ship to be taken across the world.
– The Republic of Korea may be the world’s fourth largest chemical producer, but Ulsan is the nation’s No.1 with nearly 300 petrochemical companies responsible for an output worth US$80 billion a year.
– Shipbuilding is one of the industries that has given South Korea a riveting pace of economic growth. So it’s of little surprise that the world’s largest shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries, is headquartered in Ulsan along with Hyundai Mipo Shipbuilding – the world’s fifth largest.

Resting on the laurels of heavy manufacturing, however successful, is not truly sustainable for a city. So Ulsan is looking ahead. While proud of its industrial heritage, the port city with a population of just over a million has successfully combated the effects of environmental pollution that industrial growth brings.

Major environmental improvement carried out around the city’s main river, the Taehwa, saw the area gain recognition as a national garden set in an eco-friendly park. Salmon and other fish species have returned to its waters along with birdlife; then there is the iconic Milky Way, an enchanting path through a bamboo forest.

A viewing point for part of the Bangu-Dae Petroglyphs

Natural wonders do not stop at the city’s parks. In centuries past, Ulsan’s harbour saw whaling fleets set sail, but since whale-hunting was curtailed in Korea to protect the species, the city has become the country’s only port for whale-watching cruises while onshore there is a museum dedicated to the mammal. 

Going back further over the centuries and into pre-historic times, are the Bangu-Dae Petroglyphs – one of South Korea’s national treasures and listed tentatively to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whaling features strongly among some 300 ancient engravings along the rock face with depictions of man, animals and life in the area at that time.  

To make the best of this heritage and its eco-friendly efforts, a MICE Alliance was launched in Ulsan in 2020 covering five business categories across 61 member companies ranging from hotels and tour organisers to international event planners.

The city’s tourism authorities are also helping to drive joint-marketing efforts and to host events locally. The city was also represented at the recent ITB Asia 2023 in Singapore where it was promoted as a “new destination for MICE tourism in South Korea”.

Ulsan has a regional airport with flights to Gimpo in Seoul for connections to Incheon International Airport. The city is also on the KTX high-speed rail network with routes from Seoul taking two hours.

In 2021, the city’s MICE credentials were strengthened with the opening of Ulsan Exhibition and Convention Centre. The 43,000 square metre venue has 12 meetings rooms in addition to a convention hall able to accommodate 1,400 people and a 7,776 sqm exhibition hall.

Ulsan Exhibition and Convention Centre opened in 2021

Delegates can still take in tours of Ulsan’s shipbuilding areas in between enjoying the city’s parks, whaling culture and the services offered by Ulsan MICE Alliance supported by the city’s tourism authority. 

Ulsan is a city where South Korea’s economic miracle took shape, and today it is again looking forward by welcoming the world’s business event groups.

Main picture: Ulsan is known as the city that gets brighter at night when floodlights come on at the manufacturing plants and illuminate the cityscape

This Feature on Ulsan was Brought to You By…


For further information, please contact us at  sypark@uctf.or.kr

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