Ulsan is the industrial heart of Korea, and is home to the world’s largest automobile assembly plant (Hyundai), and the world’s largest shipyard (Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI)). There are also petrochemical plants, oil refineries, and a huge number of smaller plants and factories.
Among all these industries however, Hyundai is the indisputable king. Everyone I know has some sort of connection to Hyundai or HHI, and the vast majority of cars on the road are Hyundais.
Because of this, and because I have a fascination with big machines (who doesn’t want to drive a digger or a bulldozer??) I wanted to go on a tour of the Hyundai assembly plant, and the HHI shipyards. The problem was that the tours were only offered on weekdays.
And so on my very last Friday in Korea, with boxes to pack, and my apartment in shambles, I found myself sitting with my lovely friend Abo on a bus hurtling towards HHI. Disappointingly, workers at the Hyundai automobile factory were on strike. Again.
The HHI shipyards were amazing. We weren’t allowed to get off the bus, nor were we supposed to take pictures but I managed to sneak a few out of the bus window.
It’s difficult to grasp just how huge everything was from these pictures but take my word for it – it was mind-boggling. How do you even begin to build something that big?? How could you tell if a piece was missing?
We also visited the Asan Memorial Hall where the life and times of Hyundai’s founding father were immortalized. The Asan Memorial Hall was fascinating. The feats seemingly ordinary human beings can achieve never cease to amaze me. “Mr Hyundai” was born to a poor farming family in 1915, and went on to create Hyundai. Amazing.
Equally intriguing was the shrine-like atmosphere of the Hall. I saw no mention of “Mr Hyundai’s” final resting place, and I did hope he wasn’t lurking in the depths of the museum pickled like so many late Great Leaders.
The Asan Memorial Hall contained many testaments to “Mr Hyundai’s” greatness. With sentences like “He was a genuine patriot who devoted himself to the future of his community and nation,” and “His life and philosophy have left us with a deep impression,” printed on the walls, and in take-away brochures, it felt a bit like we were being politely but firmly invited to join the cult of Hyundai.
After a quick pick-me-up of an energy/chocolate bar, and a gorgeous coffee at Moby Dick’s, we headed to the Hyundai PR hall.
The Hyundai PR room was obviously supposed to attract investors. It showcased old Hyundai triumphs, and promised at great things yet to come.
We also saw a picture of the loading docks we would have visited had the Hyundai assembly plant workers not been on strike.
According to my landlord, it takes 3 days to load one of these transport ships, and the drivers have to be able to park the cars no more than 3 inches apart. The truth or more Hyundai lore? I had no idea.
On the way home, the bus driver kindly drove us by one of the loading parking lots.
All in all, it was a great day. Moving is always a stressful time, and the randomness of the day helped take my mind off of packing and goodbyes. Thank you, Hyundai and HHI! 😀