Today made me really happy that I am a mechanical engineering student. Our visit to Hyundai Motor Company was fascinating – I never really pictured myself working in the car industry, but seeing the inside of the manufacturing plant and hearing about the various sustainable models Hyundai produces is making me reconsider.
Walking into the Hyundai lobby, we saw about 5 cars on display, and you can imagine everyone’s delight when our host told us we were allowed to jump in the front seat and pretend to drive them. We took a few group photos, with Dr. Yun in the front seat, of course. Then, after a short introduction to the company, we headed over to the actual factory to see some manufacturing in action. It was really strange to see the empty frame of a car body, plain white, no doors attached, as the employees diligently added on to the interior. The entire plant seemed to be moving frantically – robotic arms carried car doors above our heads as workers carried wrenches and wires down below, as the white skeletons of the cars themselves moved steadily forward on assembly lines. As we walked through, our host explained that the car assembly process takes about 30 hours to complete, and 10 of those hours are exclusively for painting!
We then hopped on the bus to the shipyard, where Hyundai Motor Company exports thousands of cars each year. After touring Hyundai Heavy Industries, I knew how massive these ships can be, but it was still impressive to see how tiny the cars looked in comparison, being driven in one by one in neat, orderly rows. Hyundai can fit 6,000 cars in one ship (although with larger sizes it ends up being more like 4,000), and the loading process takes over 10 hours.
Hyundai was our only company visit today, as we spent the rest of the day driving to and exploring Busan. Busan is the second largest city in South Korea but being on the coast makes it feel distinct from Seoul. We spent the early afternoon wandering around the beach area, where I bought a very good fish-shaped ice cream sandwich, and relaxing in the sand.
Later, after checking into our hotel, we returned to the beach and took a cable car ride across the water, where we walked around a small amusement park and took a short hike up to an observatory. On the way down we ran into Dr. Yun, who excitedly offered to buy us the signature Korean dish that I had been dreading: live octopus. It’s a bit off-putting to see something move on your plate before you eat it, but this opportunity doesn’t come every day, so I ate a few pieces.
After the most interesting dinner of my life, it was time to head back to the hotel. Darkness had fallen, and on our cable car ride back, the lights of Busan were shining and glittering off of the water. I can’t believe we are already on the final stop of our trip, and can’t wait to make the most of our last few days in Korea.