At its peak, it was the richest city in South Korea. Ulsan, also known at Hyundai Town, powered the country's transformation after the Korean War. Now, some call it South Korea's rust belt in the making, dogged by Chinese competition, rising labor costs, and an over-reliance on Hyundai itself. But at one time, workers could make triple South Korea's average salary.
Ulsan's got Hyundai Heavy, the world's biggest ship builder, and Hyundai's car making plant, also the world's biggest. It's now an official employment crisis zone, as Reuter's Jimmy Park explains.>> Many analysts are saying that unless South Korea is fundamentally restructuring its economy and finding a new future growth engine, apart from the traditional businesses that the powerful conglomerates are running, South Korean economy can head into a lost decade like what happened in Japan.
> All of my friends have left, and I'm the last man standing. I've had so many regrets.>> Just like many others in Ulsan, Hyundai was Ha's life. Workers there wear Hyundai uniforms, live in Hyundai apartments, and send their children to Hyundai schools and universities. The company's downturn has had a devastating effect.
According to the local hospital run by Hyundai Heavy, there were 182 suicide attempts in the first half of this year. Hyundai town continues to shrink. As young people flee the city in search for jobs, it's become the fastest aging city in South Korea. And old timers are having a hard time sticking around as well.
Ha says, after decades in the city, he'll be leaving Ulsan this month.