University challenge

Published: WORSHIP

University challenge

University challenge - With its eye on a future with well-educated Christian leaders playing important roles, Handong University is one of South Korea’s most prestigious institutions. Tim Goodyer takes a lesson...

A 210-mile journey through the forest and mountains that lie to the southeast of Seoul will bring you to a university campus set high on a hilltop between the historic city of Pohang and the village of Heung-Hae. The university enjoys unique status in South Korea’s academia, taking in many of the country’s brightest students and turning out future academics, statesmen and world leaders. ‘HGU is a world-changing global university, educating honest and competent global leaders,’ says university president, Young Gil Kim, in his opening address. ‘We prepare global leaders through total education, combining moral and academic training geared for today’s global and information era.’

Opened in 1995 as Handong University, it took just a year for it to be recognised as ‘Best School for Educational Reform’ by Korea’s Ministry of Education – status that it was to retain for the following two years. Renamed Handong Global University in 2001, it earned it a fourth time, and followed it with the award for ‘Outstanding University Among Upcoming Local Universities’ in 2002 and 2003.

Admission is competitive, and applicants are evaluated on their previous academic performance, their proficiency in English language and an interview. To be successful, students from South Korea must have outstanding academic records and be ranked in the top five per cent of the National College Entrance Exam. In addition to this, they are required to follow the university’s Christian leanings, attending the campus chapel services. The present complement of 3,500 students come from 62 countries, but a Christian vocation and values is common to all, along with problem-solving and practical knowledge, creative and critical thinking, research and service, especially in developing countries in Asia and Africa.

The university site is extensive, and comprises 11 separate schools and full support infrastructure. A self-contained living and learning campus, it contains dormitories that can accommodate families as well as single students, shops and recreational facilities, the chapel, a library, laundry, post office and even a power plant. Among the 22 campus buildings, 70 classrooms and halls support a broad spread of courses, including industrial and information design, law, electronic engineering and arts and science, which includes a Visual and Performing Arts major. Among the facilities are a video production lab, GIS (geographic information system) lab, science and technology labs, a video conferencing courtroom, seminar rooms and an outdoor performance area for large-scale productions. The 12 computer labs have access to the internet and the university intranet, while the library at the International Law School is the only US-styled library of its kind in Asia. For reflective moments between studies, there is an impressive view of the Sea of Japan.

At the entrance to the campus, there is a carved stone bearing the inscription ‘Why not change the world?’ ‘We believe that we are teaching some of the next generation of international leaders,’ says Dong-wook Seo, of the chaplain’s office. ‘Good personality traits are a very important part of this, and Christianity is in-line with this teaching.’

Among the duties he assumed when he joined HGU in 2002, Dong-wook Seo is the man responsible for the Hyoam Anex Hall and its concert sound system – and recently undertook an upgrade of the main front-of-house loudspeaker system with help from Seoul-based contractor Media House. ‘The old system gave very low intelligibility for speech,’ Mr Seo explains, ‘but the new system is really fit for a house of worship. It is a totally different sound.’

The system is based on Danley Sound Labs line array loudspeakers, Crown amplification, and Dolby Lake processing, with the 48-channel Midas Venice console that had been installed as part of the previous year’s budget retained for mixing FOH and monitors. Specifically the system uses two Danley SH50 and DFA full-range, point-source cabinets, with a single TH-115 subwoofer on each side of the stage. The SH50 is a three-way, active design while the SH-DFA is an asymmetrical full-range, two-way horn designed to closely integrate with the SH-50. It fits the footprint of the SH-50, offering a coverage pattern of 50° by 100° and, at 13-inches high, is flown beneath each SH50 to provide down fill. The TH-115 extends the frequency response to 38Hz, crossing over at 200Hz. The internal DSP offered by the cabinets allows the system to be very tuned to the specific acoustic of the hall – which is used to stage other performances as well as church services.

‘We heard the system before we decided on it, but we were cautious about its ability,’ says Mr Seo, who formerly ran his own business in live sound and installation, and is familiar with a wide range of loudspeakers. As a result of their caution, however, the university opted for two SH-50 cabinets per side rather than the simple main/sub/fill configuration that was recommended by Media House. The upper cabinet is presently switched off (with no lack of performance from the system) and will be moved to another part of the complex.

‘The reason I chose these speakers is their good sound quality and also their price,’ Mr Seo says. ‘I preferred a point-source system over a line array, and the dispersion angle of this system is wide. The most important aspect of a service is speech – then comes the instruments and other sound considerations. In Korea, most pastors are men. Their voices can be soft but they also have great power and clarity, and it is important that you can understand everything they say even when it is soft. Also, Koreans seem to prefer more high frequencies in their sound than other nations – the US in particular. If you use a US set-up, people think that it sounds “wrong”.’

The usual stage set-up for worship follows an ‘expanded rock’ format, and involves a full drum kit, electric bass, two electric guitars, two acoustic guitars, two keyboard set-ups and five-or-six singers. For microphones, HGU has Shure ULX radio systems, using two P4 receivers with KT DN360 graphic equalisers for fine-tuning. As the mixing desk is analogue, the front-of-house outboard selection is larger than those seen alongside digital consoles and includes Lexicon and Yamaha reverbs, six dbx 160A compressors, a BSS Opal FCS966 graphic EQ, and two Drawmer and two Behringer comp-limiters. For the stage monitor system, there are also two XTA graphic equalisers and a further BSS Opal FCS966 EQ.

On stage, meanwhile, there are six Danley SHL PM monitor loudspeakers, with two more to follow. ‘The monitors are very immune to feedback,’ Mr Seo reports. ‘And the 8-inch driver gives surprisingly good LF reproduction.’

The secondary reinforcement system finds two Danley Sound Labs SH100 – a full-range active loudspeaker that uses a two-way ‘synergy’ horn with a 110° by 110° beam width and 70Hz to 20kHz frequency response – under the balcony and two more above it, providing coverage for these areas of the hall. There is still more work to be done, though, as Mr Seo is unhappy with the sound treatment in the room. ‘The level of reverb is high,’ he explains, ‘so we will make some changes to the rear wall. When this is done, we can adjust the front-of-house loudspeaker configuration to improve the coverage in the balcony and also improve the time alignment.’

The university presently has 30 sound students and 20 video/broadcast students who are learning the use of cameras, video editing and sound. They are able to use the main hall system as part of their courses, as well as another sound room, where there is a 12-channel Midas Venice console, as well as lighting, projection and video equipment for simple set-ups. There are also plans for a new gymnasium that will double as a performance hall with a capacity of 4,500. Tomorrow’s world leaders look set to be media savvy…

Media House, South Korea: +82 2 3775 2328

Published in Worship AVL Asia Winter 2010