Lee began his career as an assistant producer under Bae Chang-ho for the films Hwang Jin-I (1986), Our Sweet Days of Youth (1988), and Dream (1990). At the 1991 Asia-Pacific Film Festival, he was awarded Best New Director for the film, Naui Sarang Naui Shinbu, and in 1993 won the Special Jury Award for Cheot Sarang.
Other film credits include Nowhere to Hide (1999) and Duelist (2005). Many of his films feature a tragically flawed protagonist. Lee also favors slow-motion fighting sequences.