The Hyundai Spirit

Our time in Gyeongju has come to an end, and today we packed up and headed to Ulsan, which Dr. Yun dubbed (for better or for worse) “the Cleveland of South Korea”. I haven’t been to Cleveland, but I noticed that Ulsan is definitely not as lively as Seoul or as historically beautiful as Gyeongju. It seems to be mostly as industrial city, but the lack of tourist attractions doesn’t bother me much – visiting a “normal town” where most people don’t speak English feels more authentic.

The first of our two company visits was at Jinsan Marine Management Co. From the presentation, I learned that Jinsan focuses on transporting and shipping goods between companies, acting as a middle man between them. Our tour stopped through stocked warehouses filled with various supplies, where we learned that Jinsan’s exports have grown from 1 million USD in 1996 to 20 million USD in 2012. A shipping and handling company like Jinsan isn’t what I envision in my future, but the company’s growth is very impressive, and the fact that the President himself took time out of his Monday (the busiest workday in Korea) to show us around was humbling and appreciated.

They were very well prepared for our visit!
Outside the office building, near the warehouses

Hyundai Heavy Industries was our next stop, a company name that seems to be everywhere here in South Korea. The company headquarters has a small museum on the ground floor, and we spent the first part of the tour learning more about the founder, Chung Ju-yung. I knew from my research that he strove to “create something out of nothing” through what he called the Hyundai spirit: creative wisdom, positive thinking, and unwavering drive. The museum guide explained that he came from a poor family and traveled to South Korea from the north with only one cow. He sold the cow and used the funds to eventually build the world’s largest shipbuilding company – if that’s not business ingenuity, I don’t know what is. Later, we rode on the bus throughout the shipyard, which was filled with absolutely massive ships – some are almost 300 meters long! A ship that huge is built in something called a dry dock, which is then flooded with seawater to transfer it to the ocean – the water-filling process takes around 6 hours and takes twice as long to remove!

Photos weren’t allowed in the shipyard, but here’s a shot from the distance

Since Ulsan is less of a tourist town, Dr. Yun didn’t have any special recommendations for dinner. A group of us picked a random direction and decided to wander until we found something, and we ended up at a Korean barbecue restaurant. After some clumsy interactions with the waiters, we managed to sit down all in one piece and had an amazing meal together.

Heating up the coals for the barbecue
We used an app to translate the menu with interesting results…

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