When most people think of Ulsan, one word usually comes to mind: industry. Ulsan is home to a giant car manufacturing plant, shipyards and even chemical plants. Not everyone knows about Ulsan’s rich history. Migratory whales have been swimming in the waters near Ulsan since the prehistoric times, long before Hyundai moved to town and turned this area into the major city that it is today. Whale hunting was a large part of the livelihood of the early inhabitants of Ulsan and because of that, the people of Ulsan are very proud of their history of whaling. The city mascot is even a whale.
The whale festival takes place at the Taehwa River Grand Park. It’s typically held at the end of April, but this year it was postponed due to the Sewol Ferry tragedy. In 2014, the festival will take place from Thursday, July 3 – Sunday, July 6.
The most popular event at the festival is the dragon boat racing. Each year the foreigners are able to put together teams and compete against each other. Foreigners come from all over Korea to compete in these races because they are so much fun!
There was a bit of controversy surrounding the event this year because the whale festival committee nearly banned foreigners from participating in the dragon boat race. It caused a lot of upset in the foreigner community in Ulsan. Fortunately, the committee had a change of heart and the competition for foreigners will go on as usual.
Other events at the festival include a show where the participants are dressed in prehistoric outfits and hunt after a breakdancing guy who must be a prey of some sort, while the chief watches on.
After the breakdancing enemy has been captured, the chief will lead everyone to the riverside for some old fashioned whale hunting, where men in dragon boats chase after a mechanical whale in the river. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but the whalers end up winning.
The whale festival is really interesting and a lot of fun! It’s definitely worth checking out. For a full list of activities and time tables, you can visit the Ulsan Whale Festival’s English website.
Date: Thursday, July 3 – Sunday, July 6
Location: Taehwagang Grand Park
Address: Ulsan, Nam-gu, Sinjeong1-dong 391 (울산광역시 남구 신정동 391)