- Administrative Districts
- [+] Understand
- [+] Get in
- [+] Get around
- [+] Do
- [+] Eat
- [+] Sleep
- Stay safe
- Get out
Ulsan is a city in South Gyeongsang and the capital of the Ulsan Metropolitan District. With a population of 1.2 million it is close to Busan, Gyeongju, Daegu and Pohang. The city is known for its whaling heritage and more recently as the industrial heart of the country. The airport code is USN.
Ulsan is not frequented by tourists but has a sizable foreign population - a mixture of engineers, migrant workers and English teachers.
Ulsan includes 4 wards ("Gu") and 1 county ("Gun").
Buk-gu (북구; 北區)
The most northern the four Gu and rapidly developing due to the lack of pollution in the area.
Dong-gu (동구; 東區)
The location of Bangeojin, Hyundai and a large amount of the city's ship building industry (including the largest ship-yard in the world).
Jung-gu (중구; 中區)
Nam-gu (남구; 南區)
Ulju-gun (울주군; 蔚州郡)
Ulsan is a seaside metropolitan city in the southeast of Korea. It is 70km north of Busan.
Those who come to Ulsan are predominantly here to work for the large conglomerates or heavy industries (Hyundai Motors being one of the most notable) and to teach English as a foreign language.
It is considered the industrial centre of the country with some guidebooks likening the city to Pittsburgh or Detroit in the USA. There is much truth in this view. Yet recently re-elected Mayor, Park-Maeng-woo, plans to establish an ‘Eco-polis’ based on the restoration of the Taewha river. In 2010 it will host World Environmental Day which should crown Ulsan's rebirth as an environmentally-friendly ecological city.
There are a small number of appealing districts. Samsandong, home of the Lotte and Hyundai department stores, can be considered the up-market district. Western fashion brands are available along with a number of western chain restaurants. The neon lit back streets yield a vibrant bar and restaurant culture. The Lotte Ferris wheel is also in this area next to the Lotte Cinema.
Old down-town, Seongnamdong, is good for shopping at low, local prices (there are brand goods shops too however). It is the location of a small number of foreigner friendly/foreigner run bars.
Mugeodong, the home of Ulsan University, is the best place for the young, twenty-something’s wishing to eat, drink and party.
There are twelve touristic 'scenic sights' to see in and around city that range from the natural to man-made. However none are world class or notable sites within Korea itself.
Ilsan beach offers the most accessible sand and sea in the area but is somewhat polluted and run down. Nearby Ilsan beach is Daewangam (Great King Rock) and Ulgi Lighthouse.
Jinha beach, south of the city, offers good swimming, an annual wind surfing competition, and a historic Japanese fortress.
Jujeon and Jeongja beaches, north of the city are covered in Black Pebbles. It's a great place to enjoy raw fish and steamed crab. Two popular local delicacies.
Gangelgot, a lighthouse south of the city, is known for being the first place the sun rises in Korea, drawing large crowds on New Years Morning.
Ulsan Grand Park, located near Gonguptap rotary, was built in two stages for the people of Ulsan by SK corporation. It is a huge park with many recreation activities, including bicycle and rollerblade rentals. It's a great place to go for a stroll.
Although Ulsan is a city of 1.2 million, there is no metro system. There is an extensive bus network, but it takes time to negotiate the city streets on these buses.
Ulsan today lives in a catch-22 situation: In some districts it is impossible to escape the industries. Although these industrial sites are breath-taking in scope, a testament to the achievement of man, they blight the landscape. On the other hand, the investment from these industries undeniably makes the city an better place to be.
Though people living there don’t wish to admit it, there is something likable about Ulsan. Perhaps it’s the industrial grit and grime, though this is doubtful. It might be the constant surprises, of beauty and happiness that peek out between this grit and grime that make it not such a bad place to be after all.
Ulsan was a World Cup 2002 host city.
Ulsan, not even a smudge in world history prior to 1972, has seen remarkable change and development in the decades following. The history of the city prior to this date is very unremarkable and decidedly average. Though its industrial and ship building roots go back many hundreds of years there was nothing particularly special about it – no technological, societal or cultural firsts.
It found itself in a strategic location between the Korean peninsular and Japan with good natural harbours. Things were made here and sent elsewhere. They still are.
Ulsan's history has also long been associated with whales. Whaling goes back thousands of years and at nearby Bangudae there are petroglyphs that suggest hunting as long ago as 8,000 years.
Hunting did not begin in large numbers until the early 1900s when Russian fishermen arrived in the area. Under Japanese occupation it continued.
After the end of World War Two, whales became a valuable source of food in a time of scarcity and hunger. Hunting continued until the International Whaling Commission introduced measures to stop it in 1986.
Other events include Ulsan being the location of a major battle between warrior monks attempting to relive beleaguered citizen armies in the area fighting Japanese invasions (1592). Records dating from 1642 show the first seeds from which the city’s history became intertwined with shipbuilding. The Joseon dynasty ordered the first shipping complex to be built.
During World War Two the area was a major industrial site for the Japanese thats infrastructure survived the war relatively intact. The following Korean War saw it avoid destruction too thanks to its position inside the Busan perimeter during the darkest days of the conflict.
Searching locations for its modernization drive following the conclusion of fighting Ulsan was selected as one of the four possible sites for industrial development of the country by the Korean government. The current president of the time came from the Ulsan area, as did many other high-ranking bureaucrats.
Thus with the help of several billion dollars worth of tax incentives and large low interest loans the location suddenly became very favourable for business start-up.
And so came Hyundai. In 1972 it built the largest shipyard in the world followed closely by the largest automobile production facility. Today much of what we see in Ulsan has been built by the Hyundai Heavy Industries by receive government contracts or selling the equipment needed for such projects.
Other companies came (petro-chemical services) turning the city into the industrial capital of the country. In the future this is what its history will be remembered for.
When to visit
When considering a touristic visit to the area then the best months tend to be from March through May before it gets too hot. Summer serves up a heavy sweat-inducing humidity along with prolonged rain showers mixed with the occasional typhoon. It remains warm until late October (cited by many to be the best month) at which point the weather turns cold. But it is not uncommon even in December to have warm spells with temperatures plummeting at night. Ulsan sees little snow due to its southerly position on the Korean peninsular and polluted atmosphere - however that is not to say that snow can not fall. When it does fall, it can be heavy.
As Ulsan receives no international flights it is only possible to arrive in the city via the air from two destinations - Seoul (Gimpo) and Jeju-do.
Getting to Ulsan from Incheon Int’l Airport requires a transfer upon landing to Gimpo Airport. It is best to do this via the limousine bus service, which departs from in front of the main terminal at Incheon Int'l Airport every five minutes. The journey then takes about thirty five minutes. The fare is W6,000. Be sure to listen to the announcements on the bus as it will inform you of which terminal you need for your onward flight.
Domestic airplane from Gimpo (operated by Korean Air and Asiana) takes about one hour. Weekday fares start at W62,000 rising to W71,000 at weekends.
Ulsan Airport is in Songjeong-dong, Buk-gu, on the north side of the city. It was first opened in November 1970 with a regular service between Ulsan and Seoul being established. Yet this was suspended in 1973 with the field closing in 1974. In 1984, the regular line was opened again. Asiana Airlines assumed control of the Ulsan~Seoul service in March 1992, and engea Airlines the Ulsan~Jeju line on February 1993. Asiana Airlines started to serve Ulsan~Jeju line on March 1993.In December 1997 the passenger terminal was extended with a capacity of 2,300,000 passengers per year.
There is parking for up to 534 vehicles.
The passenger terminal in Ulsan is clean, modern and functional. There are a number of facilities and amenities that an airport of its size should offer. Available food outlets sell the usual fare of Korean food. There is a coffee bar and newsagents selling books. They also sell the English dailies ‘The Korean Times’ and ‘The Korean Herald’. Other services include a chemist, smoking room and of course, car rental.
The tourist information booth on the ground floor is a must before leaving the airport for great maps of the city and many leaflets on things to do. There is literature on Gyeonju also.
Check-in and arrivals are on the ground floor. Go upstairs for security and departures.
Those wanting to get to and from Gyeonju usually pass through Ulsan airport too. A direct bus service to Gyeongju runs 4 times a day. Departures from Ulsan Airport are at 8:20 11:40 16:10 18:40. Departures from Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal, Platform No.5 are at: 7:00, 10:10, 14:30,17:20.
Gimpo Limousine Bus: 032-741-0114 Korean Airlines: 1588-2001 Asiana: 1588-800
Ulsan has rail links with the rest of the country and it is possible to get to the city without too much trouble or waiting.
KTX started serving Ulsan directly starting in November 2010, although it is not going to the former Ulsan station. It serves an entirely new one to the west of the city core (in Eonyang). It is for the most part very inconveniently located being further away from downtown then even the airport, however various bus services helps this somewhat.
The regular city buses (yellow and white) cost 1,000 won when using cash, or 950 Won when using a transportation card, and are the cheapest, although not the most comfortable way or quickest to get to the city center. The 327, 337, and 807 all runs to Samsan-dong, which is the downtown of Ulsan, while other routes stay outside of the city core. These buses do not use the expressway and even makes some stops that are somehwat out of the way, so they may take considerably longer than the buses below to the city center.
One Chwaseok (seated) bus line runs as well to the KTX station, route number 1703. It costs 1,500 Won by cash, or 1,300 using a transporation card. It uses the expressway to the city center, so it is quicker and has more comfortable seats as the regular city buses.
There are also four express buses (5000 series) which run from the station to various parts of the city. They cost 3,200 Won when paid in cash, or 3,000 Won by transportation card. These buses have the most comfortable seats and make limited amounts of stops along the way.
Non high speed trains
The existing non high speed Ulsan station has been renamed to Taehwagang (Taehwa River) Station, while only the new KTX station is now named Ulsan station.
With the start of direct KTX service to Ulsan, there are no longer any slow (Saemaul or Mugunghwa) trains that go to Seoul. Most now terminate in Dongdaegu Station and Bujeon station in Busan, with a few runs to Pohang and other places.
Taehwagang station is situated a brisk twenty minutes walk from the centre of Samsandong following the main road straight ahead after going outside. Look for the iconic Lotte ferris wheel. Walking from the Lotte Ferris Wheel is truly a brisk walk! Taxis provide a better mode of transportation to the Taehwagang Station, and gives you the advantage of not carrying your backpack or luggage along the sidewalks.
Getting to Ulsan by car is simple enough as Korea is relatively small and has a network of well developed roads. Be aware that the traffic lights take a long time to change. Patience is advised.
From Seoul, Daejeon and Daegu, the fastest road that connects Seoul and Ulsan is the Gyeonbu Expressway. Take the Gyeongbu Expressway from Seoul to Busan and exit at Eonyang junction to reach Ulsan.
From Gwangju, take the Namhae Expressway toward Busan and exit at Wonyang junction to reach Ulsan.
From Chuncheon, take the Jungang Expressway toward Daegu. Then take the Gyeonbu Expressway toward Busan at the Geumho junction. Exit at Eonyang junction to reach Ulsan.
From Eumseong and Cheongju take the Jungbu Expressway toward Daejeon and then take the Gyeongbu Expressway at the Nami junction. Exit at the Eonyang junction to reach Ulsan.
Ulsan is well served by intercity buses and it is possible to get to the city from any other major (and not so major) location in the country. The city terminals are located a brief walk across the street from each other in Samsandong with a smaller terminal in Bangeojin. It is also possible to jump off these buses at the major neighborhoods or intersections on the way into the city (Gongeotap and Shinbok rotaries being a notable two).
From Seoul It takes about 4 to 5 hours depending on traffic. The express bus runs from the Express Bus Terminal in Seocho-Gu in Seoul to Ulsan with departures about once every 20 minutes. There also is an intercity bus running from the Dong-Seoul bus terminal once every 30 to 40 minutes to the Intercity Bus Temerminal in Samsan Dong in Ulsan, as well as two departures a day from the same terminal to the Bangeojin terminal.
From Busan There are several options for the Busan - Ulsan route.
- From the Nopodong bus terminal in northern Busan, you can take both the Chwasok (seated) city buses and the intercity buses that both run to Samsandong in Ulsan. For the Chwaseok buses, 1127, 1137, 2100, and 2300 all can be used (1127 runs to Mugeodong and Seongnamdong while the other buses take a more direct route to Samsandong). The cost is 1,800 Won if you use a transportation card, or 2,000 Won if you pay in cash. Alternately you can also use the Intercity bus which runs the same route, but makes less stops, so it is slightly quicker. Buses are very frequent (once every 7 minutes during the daytime) with the last departures at 2 AM from both sides. The cost is 4,000 Won which goes up to 5,900 after 10PM. There are additionally Intercity buses that run to Bangeojin as well.
- From Haeundae, there are intercity buses running from the Haeundae bus terminal, which is directly across the street from the Haeundae train station. Local service runs once every 20 minutes to the Samsandong terminal, and takes about 1.5 hours. The direct service which uses the expressway runs once every 30 minutes to 1 hour and takes 1 hour. In order to buy a ticket for the direct service, you should mention "Jik-tong" (직통), which is Korean for direct since the local bus is more expensive even if you get on and off at the same exact stops!
There are no ferry services in Ulsan though some people do arrive via work on boats that make port at the shipyards. The nearest international ferry services for the general public are in Busan where they arrive from a whole host of places including China and Japan. It is very rare that anyone would actually want to come to Ulsan for the first time using these services. Many English teachers make use of the ferries in Busan for the E-2 visa run to Fukuoka in Japan.
Ulsan has an extensive public bus network with plans in place to build Light Rapid Transit system in the future.
If staying in the city for any length of time then buying the transportation discount card makes economic sense. It will entitle the holder to a 50 Won discount on fares (200 Won discount on Chwaseok "seated" buses) and a free transfer between bus services if made within the hour. Upon exiting the first bus be sure to place the card over the box with an X and O to initiate the free transfer.
The cards can be bought and refilled at the vendor shacks located next to any major bus stop in the city. Depending on design it should cost no more than 5,000won. This does not include any credit which must be paid for in addition. One great feature is that it can be used on other city transport networks across the country.
Getting around the city by bus is a lengthy and time consuming process. The white express bus services alleviate this somewhat but are less frequent on the routes.
The regular yellow city buses cost a flat 1,000won regardless of your journey’s destination. This makes long distance bus travel economical, but for short trips not so much.
Buses run until about 11:30PM in the evening after this they start again early in the morning. Perhaps around 5AM in some areas.
The smaller blue buses only circuit the immediate local area many times a day. These cost 600won or more.
Step onto the bus at the front with exact change if possible. Drivers do give change but nothing more than a few hundred Won. To exit the bus press one of the red buttons for a stop and step off at the back.
The city government has recently invested in a number of electronic timetable boards which are being rolled out at all notable and/or busy stops. This makes finding out the arrival time of the next bus extremely convenient.
Foreigners use taxi’s in the city frequently and almost always without problem. They’re relatively cheap to use especially if the cost is shared among others which can make it cheaper than using the bus. Once the bus stops running at night they are the only way to get from place to place over long distances.
The minimum fare begins at 2,200won for the first two kilometres and increases by 100 won for every 144 metres thereafter. Taking a taxi between 12 midnight and 4 a.m. will mean an increase of 20% on the minimum fare. 2,460 being the new minimum, rising at 120 won thereafter.
After 4 a.m. passes the minimum fare immediately returns to 2,200. If your driver places it on the higher fare question this action or ask them to stop and get straight out. 4 a.m. and beyond means 2,200 won.
Be aware if the driver touches the meter at any point during the journey. There is only a need to touch it twice, once when the journey starts and once when it is over – that is unless your journey starts shortly before midnight and continues past in which case they may press a button to start increasing the fare by 20%.
Calling for a taxi should cost an extra 1,000 won but it is not often noticed on top of the total fare.
Speak clearly and slowly to the driver as many have problems understanding a foreigner speaking Korean, no matter how good your skills are.
Be also aware that if you should be involved as a passenger in a taxi in an accident with another vehicle, you may be held responsible for costs incurred - if the driver was not taking you to where you wanted to go - the accident would not have happened. - It HAS happened in the past, and even the police have been called if there is concern that the cost of damages is so high that it could be considered the passenger may not be able to pay immediately!
Scooters are also a viable alternative for foreigners. They’re cheap to buy, cheap to insure and cheap to tax.
A helmet must be worn at all times.
All riders will need a licence and the ease of obtaining it depends on your nationality. Some nationalities just have to file the paperwork while others have to pass a practical test.
Driving a scooter in Ulsan is dangerous and foreigners do get in accidents. Watch for other vehicles changing lanes without giving any indication beforehand. On the other hand having a scooter allows for much greater freedom to roam, especially to the beautiful outer areas of the metropolitan area.
If you’re in some of the outlying areas and live close to a station then it becomes a viable form of transport into the city. For example, Hogye and Hyomun have stations in the north. To the south lie Deokha, Onyang and Seosaeng stations.
Tickets will be cheaper than a taxi but slightly more expensive than the bus. However you’ll be into the centre within a few minutes making it well worth that extra couple of hundred won. Check your local station ticket office for arrival and departure times as schedules change depending on season of travel.
By Light Rapid Transit
A Light Rapid Transit (LRT) will be built in the city over the coming years similar to that found in some European cities. The first of the lines will run through Mugeodong, Munsu Stadium, Gonguptap, Samsandong to Ulsan Station then turning north to Hyomun Station. There have been demands from the residents of Buk-Gu for it to extend as far north at Hogye. There are designs to eventually connect the ship yards at Bangeojin to the network.
Construction work has yet to begin and is not to be completed before 2012. The project is to cost at least 1.4 billion dollars.
The primary language of Ulsan is Korean. English is not common especially among the older generations and many younger Koreans are shy about using their language skills. They'll often nod and say yes without really having understood a question - which can lead to problems when asking for directions. The Korean phrasebook should provide some useful words and expressions.
If you are lucky, you might be able to see whale. It's probability is around 45%.
popular on Munsu Mountain, the tallest in the city. Over 100 sport routes are available from 5.8 up to 5.13
hiking in the numerous mountains around the city is very popular, especially among the Koreans. Just about any wooded area will be flush with hiking trails.
The city has a fabulous river park with walking, running and biking trails. Flowers are plentiful and make for pleasant journeys along the river.
Numerous sites in Ulsan boast primitive rock carvings or petroglyphs which detail the areas rich heritage from the Bronze age.
You can learn how to make onggi(Korean traditional china). But you might need translator
- Pho Bay, (next to Lotel Hotel). Pho Bay is a great Vietnamese restaurant. Try the Pho Noodle soup. 7~10,000.
The second floor of the Samsandong Skyrex apartment building (the tall twin buildings that can't be missed) hosts a buffet called D'Maris which is focused on seafood, but also hosts a large variety of other dishes and is quite delicious. Cost is 36,300 Won per person.
- Bench Warmers, (one block north and one block west of the clock tower ring, look on the right up a short alley for the sign). Great forienger bar in Shinae (Old Downtown). They even host a poker game every Monday night. Benchwarmers is closed as of a couple of weeks before Halloween 2010. Rumor has it that it has been sold to someone who is going to put a little money back into the bar for renovations to reopen it. Whether or not it'll still be called Benchwarmers is unknown.
- Ulsan Hotel  is a business oriented hotel located at Gongeoptap Rotary. It is located very close to the Ulsan Grand Park.
- Lotte Hotel  is currently the most luxrious place to stay. It is right in the center of the main downtown area, just steps away from various bars and shopping. Both the intercity and express bus terminals are located within a few minutes walking distance.
- Hyundai Hotel  is another 5 star accomodation. It is in Dong-Gu, and unless you are visiting the Dong-Gu area, is very inconveniently located.
Ulsan is a relatively safe city. Police vehicles are apparent as you travel through the city, but living in any large city, it is better to be safe, as the crime rate is not zero percent. When you leave your domicile, lock your doors and windows. Many times apartments have aluminum bars on any windows that are accessable to the public.
The apartments have a "security system" that allows the occupant to see who is at the door. When a visitor comes calling, they ring the door bell, which activates the security camera and the occupant's security system shows who is at the door from the safety of inside the residence. A handset is usually provided or an intercom button where you can answer the door without actually opening the door to a potential stranger.
Official English-Language Website for Foreigners in Ulsan  Best way to cope is to read up on what goes on in Ulsan and share with other foreigners.
There are many other cities nearby that are cool to check out for a weekend tour
- Busan (부산, 釜山) is an hour away by bus from Samsandong. Korea's second city, there's something for everyone there.
- Gyeongju (경주, 慶州) Ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty a short bus or train ride north. Home of Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto. It's an open-air museum and not to be missed.
- Daegu (대구, 大邱) Large city with it's own unique sights to see.
- Pohang (포항, 浦項) Industrial grit and grim, but a marvelous beach, compact and eminently walkable downtown make this an alternative weekend break.