Ulsan Hyundai was established in Incheon, Gyeonggi on 6 December 1983, as Hyundai Football Club, with Horangi (Horangi means tiger) as its mascot. They entered the league in 1984 and finished the season in 3rd place. In 1986, the club expanded their franchise from Incheon, Gyeonggi to Gangwon. But In 1987, the club was based solely in Gangwon. In the early 1990s, the club moved to Ulsan, becoming Ulsan Hyundai. The club became the league champion in 1996, but then entered a long dry-spell. Korean football legend Cha Bum-keun managed the club from 1991 to 1994.
They finished runners-up in 2002 and 2003, and started to emerge as a strong force. In 2005, they qualified for the Championship Playoff. In the playoff semi-final, they beat Seongnam Ilhwa 2–1, and in the final, they beat Incheon United 6–3 agg, with a hat-trick from Lee Chun-Soo in the first leg. The club also went on to win the A3 Champions Cup in 2006.
In 2012, the club won the AFC Champions League, defeating Al-Ahli 3-0 on 10 November. In the run up to the final, Ulsan went unbeaten in all 12 games, winning nine consecutive and scored 27 goals.