S.M. Entertainment

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Not to be confused with Sony Music Entertainment.
S.M. Entertainment
Native name
에스엠 엔터테인먼트
SM 엔터테인먼트
Traded as KRX: 041510
KRX 100 Component
Industry Entertainment
Genre Trot
Founded February 1995
Founder Lee Soo Man
Headquarters Seoul, South Korea
Number of locations
Cheongdam-dong, Apgujeong-dong
Area served
Key people
Kim Youngmin (CEO)
Services Entertainment
Revenue US$260 million (2013)[1]
Increase US$51 million (2012)[2]
Increase US$63 million (2012)
Owner Lee Soo-Man
(21.27%, 2014)
National Pension Service
(11.05%, 2014)
Number of employees
1,667 (as of March 2013)
Subsidiaries SM TinTin Hall (2000)
SM Entertainment Japan (2001)
SM Academy (2003)
SM Pictures (2007)
SM Amusement
SM F&B Development
SM Entertainment USA (2008)
SM Town Travel (2012)
SM Culture and Contents (2012, since 2013 including Woollim Entertainment)[3]
SM Beijing[4]
Slogan The future of culture technology
Website Official Website

S.M. Entertainment (Hangul: SM엔터테인먼트, SM stands for Star Museum) is a South Korean entertainment company, founded by Lee Soo-man. The company operates a record label, talent agency, travel agency, film production company, music production company, event management and concert production firm as well as a music publishing house. A prominent entertainment company in South Korea, the label is one of the three biggest record labels in the K-pop industry, alongside YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.[5][6]

Once the home to the original Korean idol groups like H.O.T., S.E.S., Fly to the Sky and Shinhwa, the label itself is home to a roster of prominent K-pop recording artists that include Girl's Generation and Super Junior, where both have achieved domestic and international success. The company also manages a number of actors, including Go Ara, Kim Min-jong, Kim Ha-neul, Lee Yeon-hee and Kim Ian, among others. SM Entertainment also co-publishes Avex Trax releases for Japanese artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki, Namie Amuro, and Koda Kumi, as well as Johnny's Entertainment acts like Arashi and KAT-TUN.[7]

In 2012, the market capitalization of SM reached ₩1.38 trillion (US$1.24 billion).[8]


1990s: First generation groups[edit]

After graduating from Seoul National University and pursuing his own career as a singer, Lee Soo Man surveyed teenage girls on what they wanted to see in music groups and started the boy group H.O.T. and girl group S.E.S.. Both groups became successful during the late 1990s. Soon thereafter, Soo Man created Shinhwa, and once again, the band attained popularity and success within the Korean entertainment industry, continuing Soo Man's streak of producing successful artists. In 1999, Soo Man created Korea's first R&B duo, Fly to the Sky, with members Hwanhee and Brian, who were also successful.[citation needed]

In February 1995, SM Entertainment set up its capital fund at ₩50,000,000. In January 1996, SM Entertainment purchased land for a recording site and manufactured its contents for broadcasting companies like KBS, SBS, HBS, KMTV, M-NET. In April 1997, the head office was transferred to the Yadang-ri, Gyoha-myeon, Paju, Gyeonggi-do. In October 1998, Kim Kyung-wook was awarded the position of CEO. In August 1999, a paid-in capital increase of ₩25,000,000 (5,000 shares) and free issue of 225,000 shares (₩112,500,000) occurred. In that same year, SM Entertainment built a branch office in Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.

However, problems began appearing in SM Entertainment following the breakup of H.O.T. in 2001 and S.E.S. in 2002. In 2003 SM Entertainment also saw the departure of Shinhwa who moved to a new management company. In the following years, some of SM's newer ventures, such as Isak N Jiyeon and Black Beat, failed to attain the popularity achieved by earlier SM artists.[citation needed]

2000s: Second generation and expansion[edit]

In early 2000, SM Entertainment agreed to share the split from 5,000 won to 500 won per share. In mid-2000, the company was approved and listed in KOSDAQ as 041510. Late that year, SM Entertainment and Avex Trax signed a contract for music licensing. In December 2000, SM established an affiliation with Fandago Korea. In January 2001, SM Entertainment established an overseas joint-venture corporation as SM Entertainment Japan Co., Ltd. In March of the same year, Kim Kyoung-wook was appointed the company's third CEO. In May of the same year, SM Entertainment spent ₩10 billion to organize its first joint-venture investment fund in the music industry. SM also established subsidiaries BM Entertainment and Cid.K Entertainment for girl groups M.I.L.K. and Shinvi, respectively, but they are now defunct as both groups have disbanded.

In April 2002, an additional 1,341,180 shares was added, and in June 2002, the third-party paid-in capital increased another 61,048 shares. In late-2002, SM Entertainment was awarded the Grand Prix of Ministry of Culture and Tourism for the Culture Contents for Export Award in music. In 2003, it established its affiliation with the Starlight Corporation Ltd. In February 2004, the third-party paid-in capital increased another 271,428 shares. In April of the same year, the head office moved from Paju, Gyeonggi Province to Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. A month later, it established its affiliation with C-Cube Entertainment Corporation.

The agency later found new successes with many other acts. SM Entertainment debuted a solo singer BoA in 2000, a five-member boy group (now a duo) TVXQ in 2003, a four-member rock band TRAX in 2004, a four-member girl group The Grace and a twelve-member (originally thirteen) boy group Super Junior in 2005, a solo singer of Chinese descent Zhang Liyin in 2006, a solo singer active in Japan J-Min and a nine member girl group Girls' Generation in 2007, another five-member boy group SHINee in 2008, five-member girl group f(x) in 2009, four-member ballad project group S.M. the Ballad in 2010, boy group EXO in 2012, which is divided into EXO-K and EXO-M for the respective Korean and Chinese markets, and a four-member girl group (now a five-member) Red Velvet in 2014.

In May 2005 Hur Dah-shin became the fourth CEO. In May 2008 the SM Art Company was formed and helmed by Pyo In-bong as co-CEO. It aims to pursue businesses in musicals and theatre business. Its first production was Xanadu starring Super Junior members Heechul and Kangin.[9] In August 2010, Kim young-min took the role of CEO.[10][11] On October 21, 2008, the company announced plans to debut BoA in the United States under SM's new subsidiary label, SM Entertainment USA.

2010–2011: United Asia Management and joint ventures[edit]

In February 2010, founder Lee Soo-man resigned from his position as a member of the board of directors. An official at SM is quoted as saying that Lee had decided to do so in order to "focus more energy on SM's overseas business, new business management and artist development".[12]

In May 2010, SM announced its largest first quarter operating profit of 2010 at ₩10.4 billion, up 471% from the same period in 2009. Its gross revenue from sales from January to March was reported at ₩22.7 billion, up 58% from the year before.[13]

In March 2010, KMP Holdings was established via a joint venture between S.M., YG, JYP, Star Empire, and other companies like Medialine, CAN Entertainment and Music Factory. KMP is the official distributor of releases from these companies. KMP stands for Korean Music Power.[14] The firm's first distributed release from SM was Super Junior's fifth studio album, Mr. Simple and since this release, SM is not self-distributed any longer. However, KT Music eventually acquired KMP in November 2012, and in mid-June 2013, KT Music absorbed KMP's distribution network.[15] Henry's Trap was the last SM release to be distributed by KMP.

In April 2011 SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, KeyEast, AMENT and Star J Entertainment created the ‘United Asia Management‘ agency. This joint investment corporate body was created to pursue a global market, and all artists under the six agencies are under a database system that manages intellectual property rights. A new contents production system is utilized as well for movies, dramas, and other media. UAM acts as the global agency for artists planning to advance, or currently promoting, overseas.

On August 16, 2011, SM has established their first international joint venture with Thai media company TrueVisions Group called "SM True." Kim Youngmin said that the joint venture will help "quickly and more effectively distribute [SM's] contents" and that this will create a "positive synergistic effect."[16]

2012: ENT, S.M.ART EXHIBITION and new contracts[edit]

SM Entertainment building in Apgujeong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul in 2012

In February 2012, SM launched new business initiative that specializes in travel and tourism. It acquired Hawaiian travel firm 'Happy Hawaii' and renamed it "SM Town Travel." It is helmed by CEO Kang Jung Hyun and "aims to create synergies" between SM's entertainment product and travel.[17] One of its first products was to offer special concert packages for overseas fans to attend Super Junior's Super Show 4 Tour encore concerts in Seoul in May 2012.[18]

On 26 March 2012, 47 of SM's artists, including Kangta, BoA, TVXQ, CSJH The Grace, Super Junior, Zhang Li Yin, Girls' Generation, SHINee, f(x), Go Ara, Isak and Lee Yeon Hee, became stockholders of SM Entertainment. Kangta, BoA, and most of Super Junior and Girls’ Generation members received 680 shares each (a value of around $27,200 for each person), while SHINee and f(x) members received 340 shares each (a value of around $13,600 for each person).[19]

In 2012 Yoon In Wan, the creator of the popular comic, ‘The Blade of the Phantom Master‘, teamed up with S.M. Entertainment for a new webtoon series titled ‘ENT.’ The webtoon released an illustration featuring Girls' Generation in cartoon form.[20] From August 10–19 SM Entertainment held an IT exhibition, the S.M.ART EXHIBITION at the COEX Convention & Exhibition Center.[21] SM also signed contracts with VISA & KB Card to start printing SM artist debut cards.[22] In 2012 SM Entertainment was also accused of colluding with music distributors, but was cleared of the charge. On August 16, the Seoul High Court revealed their verdict on the issue: “The FTC (Fair Trade Commission) has canceled all corrective orders against SM Entertainment, and the lawsuit costs will be paid by the defendant.”[23]

On 17 August, MC Kang Ho-dong and Shin Dong Yup announced that they have signed exclusive contracts with SM C&C in collaboration with SM Entertainment.[24] With the signing of the two MC's, this is seen as a move by SM to expand into television production outside of the management of singers and actors.[25] On September 19, SM C&C merged with AM Entertainment as part of its strategy to extend into drama and video contents production. AM Entertainment, who represent actors, such as Jang Dong-gun, Kim Ha-neul, Han Ji-min.[26] However Hyun Bin and Shin Min-ah were not included in the merge because both of their respective contract with AM had expired. They have yet to decide while the former was serving mandatory military service and the latter was still filming MBC drama Arang and the Magistrate.[27] On the same day it was announced that they have also signed exclusive contracts with comedians Lee Su-geun and Kim Byung-man of Laws of the Jungle and 1 Night 2 Days fame.[28]

SM also partnered with Design House Inc., producer of magazines “Happy Homes“, “Monthly Design“, “Men’s Health“, and “Luxury,” to create a new magazine called "The Celebrity." “The Celebrity” targets markets in Asia and around the world through mobile contents, on and offline magazines, and other publications.

SM Entertainment’s broadcast sector, SM C&C (Culture and Contents), acquired Hoon Media in 2013. Hoon Media is led by Lee Hoon-hee and is the production company behind popular KBS shows 1 vs 100, Heroines 6, Qualifications of Men, and Music Bank. Hoon Media has also produced other entertainment programs on other cable channels.[29]

2013: Woollim Label and S Cube with Samsung Group[edit]

In August 2013, S.M. Entertainment's subsidiary S.M. Culture & Contents (S.M. C&C) and Woollim Entertainment merged. The result was "Woollim Label", which was formed as an independent label within S.M. C&C. The merger is part of S.M. Entertainment's plan to be a major music company.

S.M. stated, "S.M. Entertainment will run Woollim Label's global music distribution and additional businesses while S.M. C&C will take charge of the label's functions. In terms of business structure and scale, we will acquire international competitiveness and will stand as Asia's premier music group which can compete with global major music groups. We will take our place as the first global major music group in Korea."[3]

On September 10, 2013, SME and Samsung publicly signed their agreement for the venture 'S Cube.' As part of the campaign, SME's artists, composers, and producers will take part in an educational program which teaches music and dance to impoverished children around the world. The program will also provide services for multi-cultural families.

2014: Partnership with Baljunso and KT Music stock acquisition[edit]

On February 2014, S.M. Entertainment acquired shares in the independent record label Baljunso. Baljunso was founded in 1991 by Kang Byung-yong, former director of CAN Entertainment. Its artists include Kikaflo, Ezen, Shinchon Tigers, HLin, Wasted Johnny's, and Play the Siren.[30] Due to concerns regarding Baljunso partnering with S.M. (which is a major label), Kang Byung-yong said "We will maintain the color of the indie scene and through the support, we will create an environment in which the indie musicians will be able to promote more actively."[31]

In January 2014, the seven talent agencies behind KMP Holdings (S.M. Entertainment, YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, Star Empire Entertainment, Media Line, CAN Entertainment and Music Factory Entertainment) formed a collective bond partnership. They bought 13.48% of KT Music's stocks, leaving parent KT Corporation's share with only 49.99%.[32]


Contractual dispute with JYJ (TVXQ)[edit]

In late July 2009, three of the TVXQ members; Kim Jaejoong (known as Hero), Park Yoochun (known as Micky) and Kim Junsu (known as Xiah), submitted an application to the Seoul Central District Court to determine the validity of their contract with SM Entertainment.[33][34] Through their lawyers, the members stated that the 13-year contract was excessively long and that the group's earnings were not fairly distributed to the members.[35] Early termination penalty of their contract will cost them 2 times the profit that the group is estimated to earn for the rest of the contract period (over 11 billion, or around US$9.2 million).[36] The news was enough to cause SM Entertainment's stock price to drop over 10% on the KOSPI.[37]

The Seoul Central District Court ruled in favour of the three members. They have claimed that the contract was unfair and the members were left out of proper profit distribution.[38] In response, SM Entertainment called a press conference and claimed that the lawsuit was a fraud, stating that the lawsuit was not about unfair contracts or human rights but a scam motivated by the three members' greed over their cosmetics business. The three members remained silent except to say through their lawyers that they hoped SM Entertainment would respect the court's decision.[39]

In response to the lawsuit, 120,000 members of TVXQ's fan club, Cassiopeia, filed a petition against SM Entertainment's long-term contracts with the Seoul District Court.[40] Cassiopeia also filed for compensation from SM Entertainment for the canceled SM Town Live Concert, as both SM and TVXQ initially stated that the concert would go on as planned; the concert was canceled a week before its scheduled date.[41] It was later announced in early May 2010 that the three members of TVXQ (Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu) will return to the stage as a trio under the management agency C-JeS Entertainment. Their group is called JYJ to represent the first letter of each of their names.[42]

On February 17, 2011, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed SM Entertainment's injunction against JYJ, filed in April 2010, for damage compensation.[43] In September 2012, the final decision on the case was postponed indefinitely by Seoul Central District Court for mediation under the justice department.[44]

On 28 November 2012, during a voluntary arbitration at the Seoul Central District Court, SM Entertainment and JYJ reached a mutual agreement to terminate all contracts between the two parties and not to interfere with each other's activities in the future, concluding the lawsuit.[45] A SM official is quoted as saying, "We made a judgment that we don't have to manage the three members of JYJ any longer as they expressed their intention not to keep their activity as TVXQ" and further added that they have decided to end the litigation "to avoid bringing additional harm to U-Know Yunho and Max Changmin, who are active as TVXQ, and to avoid making any more unneeded issues".[46][47]

Contractual dispute with Han Geng[edit]

On December 21, 2009, five months after the three TVXQ members filed their lawsuit, Han Geng of Super Junior also filed one. The following day, Han Geng's lawyer released the reasons for the contract termination: the contract contained provisions in SM Entertainment's favor, the 13-year contract length was unlawful, it would take an unfair sum of money to end the contract, he was not allowed to request to revise his contract, he was forced to do things that were not in his contract, he was forced to do things against his will, he was fined if he disobeyed the company or missed any events or was late, and there was unfair profit distributions within Super Junior. It was also disclosed that because SM Entertainment refused to give him a day off for over two years, Han Geng had developed gastritis and kidney disease.[48]

Han Geng's best friend and now current manager, Sun Le, also submitted a statement to Korean courts citing SM Entertainment's violation of Han Geng's rights. This statement was later leaked to the public via the Internet.[49] Sun Le's statement contended that Han Geng was forced to wear a mask due to SM Entertainment's ill-handling of the visa issue, SM Entertainment purposely discriminated against Han Geng and his family, including financially, SM Entertainment refused to cooperate or listen to any of Han Geng's suggestions, SM Entertainment purposely turned down individual activities for Han Geng (including Ariel Lin's "Firefly" music video, which later starred two other Super Junior members) and SM Entertainment had treated Han Geng's potential endorsers poorly.[50]

On September 27, 2011, Han Geng's departure from Super Junior was made official when legal representatives of both Han Geng and S.M. Entertainment released a joint statement saying that, "Han Geng and S.M. Entertainment have amicably settled on a mutual agreement, and the lawsuit was able to come to a close after Han Geng submitted his 'Notice of Withdrawal of Appeal'."[51][52]

Fair Trade Commission Revisions[edit]

In 2010 the Korean Fair Trade Commission undertook an investigation into SM policy, especially regarding their artists' contract terms, and concluded that they were "unfair." Current artist contracts were reduced by a length of three years and there was a reduction in the penalties for breach-of-contract violations. All their then-current artists re-contracted with the agency under the new terms, which were acknowledged by the FTC to be fair. [53]

2009–2010 Mnet Asian Music Awards boycott[edit]

SM Entertainment boycotted the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards event on November 21. SM stated that they had reservations regarding the standard of fairness and the criteria used in Mnet's selections for the recipients of the awards.[54] SM specifically cited the case of Girls' Generation in which their song had topped Korean music charts for nine consecutive weeks and had won numerous weekly music show awards from SBS's Inkigayo and KBS's Music Bank, but had never won on Mnet's weekly M! Countdown show and had only debuted on their charts a month after the album's released. SM also cited the fact that participants who wished to vote for the various Mnet awards had to pay a fee to do so and said they did "not want to see fans suffer any damage from the poll which has commercial intentions."[55]

2011: S.M.'s role in the price rigging scheme[edit]

S.M. was one of the 15 companies fined and sued by the Korean FTC for price rigging in 2011.[56]

Contractual dispute with Kris Wu[edit]

On May 15, 2014, almost five years after Han Geng filed his case against SM Entertainment, Kris of Exo-M filed a lawsuit to terminate his exclusive contract with SM Entertainment.[57] It was first reported on Chinese news portal Sina and then by Korean news organizations.[58][59] The lawyer Cho Bum Suk, the same lawyer who handled Han Geng's case, will be representing Kris.[60]

Red Velvet music video controversy[edit]

After the release of the Red Velvet's music video for the song "Happiness," Japanese media reported that images referencing the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the tragic 9/11 attacks, were seen in the video. SM Entertainment responded to the reports, explaining, "after questioning the director, we found that he simply used a collage source for the images, and there was no intention behind it." The representative added, "As SM wasn't able to catch it before, we will remove the material that caused the misunderstanding as soon as possible. We will make sure not to let this kind of thing happen in the future." SM Entertainment later uploaded a new version of the music video without the referencing images.[61]

Jessica's sudden departure from Girls' Generation[edit]

On September 30, 2014, S.M. Entertainment announced that Jessica of Girls' Generation had officially been removed from the group, stating that she left to focus on solo activities and entrepreneurial endeavours.[62] However, Jessica claimed on a Weibo post that she had been forced out of the group.[63] S.M. Entertainment confirmed Jessica's departure again after the Girls' Generation fan meeting in Shenzhen, China.[64]

The following day, Jessica released a statement claiming that, in August, S.M. Entertainment and the Girls' Generation members were happy about her business launch, a fashion line called Blanc and Eclare. However in early September, Jessica alleges that the other members had changed their stance and told her to either end her business or cease promotions as a member of Girls' Generation. On September 29, she claimed she had been given a "one-sided notice" asking her to leave the group.[65] From September 29 to October 1, the company had lost a total of 69 billion Won (approximately 65 million USD) as stocks had dropped by 3,350 won per share, from 40,750 to 37,400 won, following the announcement.[66]

Contractual dispute with Lu Han[edit]

On October 10, 2014, Luhan of EXO-M filed a lawsuit to nullify his exclusive contract with the company.[67] Within 15 minutes after the announcement, S.M. stocks had dropped by 9.41%, from 37,000 Won to 33,250 Won per share.[68] The stock's worth contracted by 15%, hitting the maximum decrease in price KOSDAQ allows for a day, and falling to a more-than-one-year low.[69]

SM Town[edit]

SM Town, which started in 1999, is the project name for SM Entertainment's summer and winter vacation albums. SMTown albums consist of current SM Entertainment artists. Each SMTown album consists of one SMTown song and a song from each artist or group.[70]

Recording artists[edit]



  • 1Kangta originally debuted as a member of H.O.T. in 1996. He released his first solo album after the group disbanded in 2001.
  • 2Dana originally debuted as a solo artist in 2001. She later became a member of The Grace in 2005.
  • 3Sunday originally debuted as a solo artist in 2004. She later became a member of The Grace in 2005.
  • 4Iconiq debuted in 2002 under Starworld Korea. She transferred to S.M. Entertainment in 2007.
  • 5Stephanie originally debuted as a member of The Grace in 2005. She made her debut as a solo artist in 2012.
  • 6Henry originally debuted as a member of Super Junior's sub-unit Super Junior-M in 2008. He made his debut as a solo artist in 2013.
  • 7Taemin originally debuted as a member of SHINee in 2008. He made his debut as a solo artist in 2014.
  • 8Zhou Mi originally debuted as a member of Super Junior's sub-unit Super Junior-M in 2008. He made his debut as a solo artist in 2014.
  • 9Beat Burger was originally formed in 2009 as a choreography team for S.M. artists. In September 2014, the team released their first digital EP, Electric Dream.[71] Two members of Beat Burger, Gregory Hwang and Shim Jae-won, originally debuted as members of Black Beat in 2002.
  • 10Kyuhyun originally debuted as a member of Super Junior in 2006. He made his debut as a solo artist in 2014.
  • 11Jonghyun originally debuted as a member of SHINee in 2008. He made his debut as a solo artist in 2015.[72]
  • 12Amber originally debuted as a member of f(x) in 2009. She made her debut as a solo artist in 2015.[73]

Sub-units/Project group[edit]



Studio artists[edit]


Main article: Baljunso § Artists

SM C&C[edit]


Former SM Town artists[edit]

  • 1After H.O.T. disbanded in 2001, Jang Woo-hyuk, Tony An and Lee Jae-won left S.M. Entertainment to form the trio jtL. Moon Hee-jun and Kangta remained as solo artists. In 2005, Moon parted with S.M. Entertainment.
  • 2After Isak N Jiyeon disbanded in 2004, Jiyeon took the stage name of Lina and became a member of The Grace, formed in 2005. Isak became a VJ and radio DJ for Arirang. She left S.M. Entertainment in 2012.
  • 3Kim Jae-joong (as Hero Jaejoong), Park Yoochun (as Micky Yoochun), and Kim Junsu (as Xiah Junsu) debuted in 2003 as members of TVXQ. In 2009, the three filed an injunction against S.M. Entertainment, subsequently leaving TVXQ. In 2010, the trio formed JYJ.
  • 4No Min-woo (as Rose) and Kang Jung-woo (as Attack) debuted as members of TRAX in 2004.
  • 5Han Geng debuted in 2005 as a member of Super Junior. He left the group in 2009 after filing for contract termination.

Notable former trainees[edit]

Woollim Label[edit]




As of June 2014:

Distributing labels[edit]


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