This project is a story about Ulsan, a city where I was born and raised but also a city that holds Hyundai Heavy Industries. Despite its ranking as the number one shipyard of the world in 2007, Hyundai Heavy Industries are currently faced with a steep decline alongside South Korea’s economic recession after its restructuring in 2015. This situation shows distinctive similarities with the decline of Kockums shipyard in Malmö, Sweden, 17 years ago. Back then, Kockums sold the Kockums Crane — a symbol of both Malmö and the shipbuilding yard — to Hyundai Heavy Industries. This landmark was given a nickname, ‘Tears of Malmoe’ due to the notion that the residents of Malmö wept when they saw their crane being towed away. Now, 17 years later, this crane is once again up for sale.
When a mega-corporation takes over an entire city to develop its industry, it is inevitable for the residents to be affected by the corporation’s rise and fall — especially when so many people have dedicated a lifetime working at the company and identify as the company’s workforce. Through this work, I wanted to create an opportunity for people to grow an understanding about the locals in Ulsan and their shaken livelihoods due to the company’s decline. I also wanted to express my personal sorrow as a local. From an outsider’s point of view, not only is it difficult to comprehend the amount of influence that comes from a giant corporation and the city it harbors in, but it is also difficult to imagine the livelihoods that are affected by this relationship. There is value to expressing the overlooked destroyed lives that follow any destruction of an industrial structure.
As a local, I have expressed these emotions into a performance piece and designed a wheel and a railroad to go with the performance. The wheel, which also plays a role in the Kockums Crane, symbolizes movement, the essence of an industry. The railroad symbolizes the history that encompasses the uprising and downfall of Hyundai Heavy Industries. By showing the heaviness and arduous activity of turning the wheel, this performance aims to shed a light on the demanding lives led by the Ulsan locals.