The Port of Ulsan lies on the southeastern shores of South Korea facing the Sea of Japan and backed by the T'aebaek-sanmaek mountains. On the shores of Ulsan Bay, the Port of Ulsan is about 50 kilometers northeast of the Port of Busan and about 60 kilometers south of the Port of Pohang. The Port of Ulsan is home to the biggest shipyard, Hyundai Heavy Industries, and the world's biggest automobile assembly plant owned by Hyundai Motors. The Port of Ulsan is also home to the SK Group operated and the world's second biggest oil refinery. In 2004, the Port of Ulsan was home to more than one million people.
Until the middle 20th Century, the Port of Ulsan was a fishing port and local market center. South Korea's first five-year economic plan made it an open port. Today, the Port of Ulsan is the heart of the Ulsan Industrial District, the country's special industrial area that is the corporate base for the Hyundai conglomerate. The Port of Ulsan is also home to major industrial plants, factories, and heavy industries.
The Port of Ulsan's shipbuilding and industrial past goes back many centuries; however, it was largely an unremarkable place until 1972. The Port of Ulsan has a long history of whaling. Petroglyphs suggest that, as long as eight thousand years ago, whaling was an important livelihood in the region.
Even so, large-scale whale hunting did not begin in the Port of Ulsan until the early 20th Century when Russian fishers came to the Port of Ulsan area. The practice continued under Japanese occupation. After World War II ended, the economically crippled area found whales an important source of food. Whale hunting continued in the Port of Ulsan until 1986 when the International Whaling Commission took measures to stop the over-killing of the animals.
In 1592, the future Port of Ulsan was the site of a major battle when warrior monks joined citizen soldiers in resisting Japanese invasion. Records from 1642 show that the Joseon Dynasty ordered the first shipping complex to be built in the Port of Ulsan, and the city's history was forever linked with shipbuilding.
During World War II, the Japanese made the Port of Ulsan a major industrial site. The infrastructure they created survived the war. Thankfully, the port and industrial infrastructure were relatively unscathed during the Korean War as well.
After the Korean War, the Port of Ulsan was one of four sites the Korean government considered for industrial development. The sitting President and many high-ranking government officials came from the Ulsan area, and the Port of Ulsan received significant funding for business start-ups.
In 1972, the Hyundai corporation built the world's largest shipyard in the Port of Ulsan, and soon thereafter the world's biggest automobile production plant. Today, many of the Port of Ulsan's industrial facilities were created by Hyundai Heavy Industries. These facilities were soon joined by other companies, particularly in the petro-chemical services, making the Port of Ulsan an industrial capital of South Korea.