Lee Soo-man

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Lee Soo-man
Lee in 2019
Born (1952-06-18) 18 June 1952 (age 70)
NationalitySouth Korean
Alma mater
OccupationMusic executive, record producer
TitleFounder of SM Entertainment
Kim Eun-jin (formerly known as Kim Ji Hye)
(m. 1984; died 2014)
RelativesSunny (niece)
AwardsROK Order of Cultural Merit Eun-gwan (2nd Class) ribbon.PNG Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit (2011)
Musical career
LabelsSM Entertainment

Lee Soo-man (born 18 June 1952) is a South Korean businessman, music executive and record producer who is best known for being the founder of SM Entertainment, a multinational South Korean entertainment company based in Seoul.[1] He has also been referred to as the "president of culture", as he pioneered the Korean Wave.[2] Lee debuted as a singer in 1971, while he was a student at Seoul National University. He founded SM Entertainment in 1989, which has since then become one of the largest entertainment companies in South Korea.


1952–1980: Early years and singing career[edit]

Lee was born in Jeonju, South Korea on 18 June 1952, and attended Seoul National University on and off between 1971 and 1979.[3][4] Lee debuted as a member of the band April and May (사월과 오월, alternatively 4월과 5월) in 1972 (he had joined the band in 1971), but he later departed from it due to health reasons.[5] He gained spotlight for his "good boy" image, supported by the fact that he was one of the few people who were not involved in the weed scandal among Korean celebrities in 1975, and his high academic credentials in Seoul National University.[6] He became known for hit songs such as "행복 (Happiness)", released in 1978,[6]and "한송이 꿈 (A Piece of Dream)" released in 1976.[6] In 1977, he was a member of the Korean indie band Sand Pebbles.[7] In addition to his career as a musician and his studies in university, he worked as a radio DJ and TV host during this time.[4] Lee Soo-man was also known for his trio with singers Lee Moon-sae and Yoo Yeol called Masamtrio (馬三트리오), named as such because of their appearances that resemble that of a long face of a horse.[8][9] In 1980, he formed the band 이수만과 365일 (Lee Soo-man and The 365 Days). However, media censorship policies under the Chun Doo-hwan government discouraged him from a career in the Korean music industry.

1980–1985: Studies in the United States[edit]

In the early 1980s, Lee decided to leave the entertainment world in order to pursue a career in computer engineering. He went abroad to work on a master's degree at California State University, Northridge,[10] where he witnessed the rise of "superstars of the MTV generation" such as Michael Jackson.[1] Inspired by the heyday of MTV in the United States, Lee set his sights on laying the foundation for the modern Korean pop music industry. In 1985, he returned to Korea "with a vision of what the Korean music industry could be."[4]

1985–present: Founding SM Entertainment[edit]

Lee Soo-man during the 1990s when he produced for Hyun Jin-young, the first singer to be signed to SM.

Following his return to Korea, Lee ventured back into the entertainment world by working as a DJ and presenter. In 1989, after four years of saving money and gaining experience in the industry, he established an entertainment company called SM Studio (named after his initials) in the Apgujeong neighborhood of Seoul, and signed singer Hyun Jin-young. During the 1990s, SM Studio developed an in-house system that looked after all aspects of its artists' careers.[4] Lee's approach was targeted at teenage audiences, and took a holistic view of the qualities needed to become a successful entertainer.[11] The company was renamed SM Entertainment in 1995.

In February 2010, Lee resigned from his position as a member of SM's board of directors, but maintained a role in the company's "management and artist development" divisions.[12]

On 23 January 2020, Lee Soo-man was listed by Billboard as one of the world's influential music industry leaders.[13][14]

On 5 February 2020, it was revealed by Jeff Benjamin writing for Forbes that Lee Soo-man worked on South Korean girl group Loona's EP [#], which was his first ever project away from namesake SM Entertainment.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Lee's wife, Kim Eun-jin, died from cancer on 30 September 2014.[16][17][18] He is also the paternal uncle of Sunny, one of the members of the popular SM group Girls' Generation.[19]


On 8 March 2022, Lee donated 500 million to the Hope Bridge Disaster Relief Association to help those affected by the massive wildfires that started in Uljin, Gyeongbuk. and also spread to Samcheok, Gangwon.[20] Other social causes include:

  • Global Citizen, "Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream," 2021[21][22]
    • Chief director and executive producer, Asia
    • SM Entertainment and Dream Maker Entertainment selected to host concert in Seoul and represent Asia for the biggest social cause event in history
  • UNICEF, SMile For U Campaign, 2016-2022[23][24][25]
    • Supporting children, parents, childcare workers, and educators in Asian regions to receive quality music education
    • Target areas include Hanoi, Da Nang, Kon Tum, Gia Lai, and Dien Bien (Vietnam)
  • SMile Social Service Corp., SM Entertainment, 2014–present[26]
    • Monthly and daily events for volunteer activities among SM Entertainment staff and artists
    • Activities include infant care, support for impaired youth, abandoned animal care, tree planting, and more
    • Continuously developing and increasing participant numbers: up from 130 in its first year to 462 participants in 2019
  • Korean Red Cross, disaster relief, 2014[27]
    • Personal donation for the victims of the Sewol Ferry incident, one of the gravest tragedies in South Korean history


Embezzlement charges[edit]

In 2002, the Supreme Prosecutors' Office of the Republic of Korea found evidence of Lee earning 10 billions worth of illegal market profits in August 1999 by acquiring 1.1 billion worth of stocks when listing stocks of SM Entertainment at KOSDAQ by a paid-in capital increase.[28] The Supreme Prosecutors' Office of the Republic of Korea also investigated Lee regarding circumstantial evidence of lobbying to producers in broadcasting stations and keeping a tremendous amount of cash in his personal office and vaults.[29] Lee tried to escape prosecution by staying overseas from June 2002, and was found in a golf course in Los Angeles on 2 August in the same year.[30] While on the run, Lee's passport was nullified and Lee was chased by Interpol.[31] Lee eventually came back to Korea to be investigated on 22 May 2003.[32] A pre-arrest Warrant was applied on 7 October,[33] and Lee was arrested on 8 August.[34] On 14 October, Lee was approved of bail after paying 30 million won.[35] On 19 October, Lee was prosecuted without detention.[36] In September 2004, the Supreme Court of Korea sentenced two years of imprisonment along with three years of probation.[37] Lee was released in a special exemption in 2007 commemorating the fourth year of Roh Moo-hyun's presidency.

Slave contract[edit]

In 2009, three members of the boy band TVXQ took their management agency SM Entertainment owned by Lee to court, claiming that the agency's 13-year-contract (often nicknamed a slave contract) was too long, too restrictive, and gave them almost none of the profits from their success.[38][39] The following year, in 2010, South Korea's Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) created a rule that limited entertainment contracts to seven years.[40]

Pandora Papers[edit]

Lee Soo-man was included in the names of figures in the Pandora Papers.[41]



  • Lee Soo-man (Jigu Records, 1977)
  • Lee Soo-man (Shinsegae, 1978)
  • 애창곡집 (Jigu Records, 1978)
  • Greatest (Universal Record Co., 1980)
  • Lee Soo-man (Shinsegae, 1983)
  • Lee Soo-man (Han Kook Record, 1985)
  • 끝이 없는 순간 (Asia Record Co., 1986)
  • NEW AGE 2 (Han Kook Record, January 1989)
  • NEW AGE (Asia Record Co., November 1989)


The name of the award ceremony, year presented, award category, nominee(s) of the award, and the result of the award
Award ceremony Year Category Nominee / work Result Ref.
Academic Conference by Business Released Society Small but Strong Business Entrepreneur Award Won
Gaon Chart Music Awards 2012 K-Pop Contribution Award Won
2021 K-Pop Contribution Award Won
Golden Disc Awards 2008 Record Producer of the Year Won
Korea-China Management Awards 2018 Best Marketer Won [42]
Korea Creative Content Agency 2005 Entertainment and Art Development Award Won [43]
Korea Economic Daily 2020 Dasan Business Award Won [44]
Korea Music Copyright Awards 2011 Best Record Producer Won
Kotler Awards 2017 Best Marketer Award Won
MBC Drama Awards 1987 Radio Excellence Award Won
MBC Music Festival 1976 Top 10 Male Rookie of the Year Won
1977 Top 10 Artist of Year Won
SBS Gayo Daejeon 1997 Best Planner Award Won
1998 Best Planner Award Won
2004 Producer of the Year Won
Seoul Cultural Arts Awards 2011 Best Popular Music Producer Won
Seoul Music Awards 1977 Best Record Producer Won
1997 Best Planner Award Won
South-East Music Chart Awards 2005 The Best Overseas Producer Award Won
Top Chinese Music The Annual Festival 2016 Best Producer of Asia Award Won

State and cultural honors[edit]

Name of country or organization, year given, and name of honor
Country or organization Year Honor Ref.
Asia Society 2016 Asia Game Changer Award [45]
Château Mouton Rothschild 2009 Commanderie de Bontemps [46]
International Business Society 2007 Global Frontier Award [47]
2007 Global CEO Award Winning Company Case Presentation and Awards [47]
Korea-EU Industrial Cooperation Day 2011 Korea-EU Cooperation Award [48]
Korea Society Anniversary Gala 2007 Dinner Culture Award
Proud Korean Awards 2011 National Prestige Award [49]
Seoul International Forum 2016 Yeongsan Diplomat Award [50]
South Korea 2000 Good Deed Artist Prime Minister Commendation Award
2002 Korean Culture Content Exportation Awards in Music
2003 Korean Culture Content Exportation Awards in Music
2011 Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit (class 2nd) [51]
United States 2005 Certificate of Merit as Honorary Ambassador of Los Angeles [52]


Name of publisher, year listed, name of listicle, and placement
Publisher Year Listicle Placement Ref.
Billboard 2020 Impact List Placed [53]
E Daily 2016 Cultural Leaders of the Year Placed [54]
Herald Business 2011 The Power Leader of Popular Culture 1st [55]
Insight Korea 2018 The Best CEO by College Students 10th [56]
Executives Contributing to the National Economic Development 6th [57]
Executives Showing Best Leadership 4th [58]
Money Today StarNews 2007 Cultural Industry Player in the Entertainment Business 1st [59]
Sisa Journal[a] 2005 Most Influential Person Moving the Entertainment Industry Placed [64]
Sound 2011 Korean Pop Music Power 100 1st [65]
Variety 2017 Variety500 Placed [66]
2018 Placed
International Music Leader 19th [67]
2019 11th [68]
Variety500 Placed [66]
2020 Placed


  1. ^ The Sisa Journal is one of the major weekly news magazines in Korea.[60] Established in 1989,[61] its annually conducted 'Who Moves Korea' survey determines the most influential figures in the country and highlights next-generation leaders of Korea.[62] The survey is conducted on a total of 1000 experts across 10 fields, including professors, journalists, politicians, businessmen, and cultural artists.[63]


  1. ^ a b "Lee Soo Man: Taking Korean Pop Culture Global". Stanford Graduate School of Business. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  2. ^ "'SM 수장' 이수만, 2017 코틀러 어워드 '최고경영자상' 수상" (in Korean). Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  3. ^ "KPOP NEWS – SM's Lee Soo Man Speaks at Seoul Natl. University as Alumni Speaker | Mwave". mwave.interest.me. Archived from the original on 5 May 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "The History of K-pop, Chapter 4: How Lee Soo Man's First Big Fail Resulted in Korea's Modern Pop Star System | MoonROK". moonrok.com. 14 July 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  5. ^ "사월과오월 "우린 70년대 청년 삶의 일부였죠"". yna.co.kr. 29 November 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "올해의 인물 K–POP 챔프 이수만". Joins forbes korea. 1 December 2011.
  7. ^ "[그거 아니?]이수만, 양현석, 박진영, 그리고 방시혁①". Hanryutimes. 19 July 2021.
  8. ^ "이수만·박진영·박재범·싸이·유빈, K팝 이끄는 가수 출신 [기획사 대표의 과거①]". nate. 25 October 2020.
  9. ^ "신(新) 마삼트리오? 새롭게 떠오르는 말 닮은 스타는". Hankyung. 25 January 2011.
  10. ^ Asia, Forbes. "Korea's S.M. Entertainment: The Company That Created K-Pop". Forbes. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  11. ^ Keith Howard Korean pop music: riding the wave 2006– Page 95 "together in 1996 by Lee Soo Man, a graduate of Seoul National University and a product of the campus-led song movement. Lee surveyed teenage girls, then advertised for dancers who most closely fitted what the girls said they wanted."
  12. ^ Kun-ouc, Park (25 February 2010). "Lee Soo-man steps down from SM board of directors". 10 Asia. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  13. ^ Herald, The Korea (27 January 2020). "S.M. Entertainment chief producer makes Billboard's '2020 Impact List'". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  14. ^ "The 2020 Billboard Impact List Revealed". Billboard. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  15. ^ "K-Pop Industry Legend Lee Soo-Man Works On LOONA Album In First Project Away From Namesake SM Entertainment". Forbes. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  16. ^ "Lee Soo Man's (Former SM CEO) wife dies of cancer" (in Korean). Seoul: newsdaily.co.kr. 5 October 2014.
  17. ^ "SM Entertainment's Lee Soo Man's wife passes away | allkpop.com". www.allkpop.com. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  18. ^ "SM Entertainment Founder Lee Soo Man's Wife Passes Away After 2-Year Battle With Cancer". KpopStarz. 5 October 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  19. ^ lastdance2 (7 September 2017), SNSD Funny Clip #5- When you thought that your teammate is just a small fry..., retrieved 10 February 2018[dead YouTube link]
  20. ^ Lee Deok-haeng (8 March 2022). "이수만·SM, 산불 피해 복구 성금 5억원 기부" [Lee Soo-man and SM donated 500 million won for forest fire damage recovery] (in Korean). MT Star News. Retrieved 8 March 2022 – via Naver.
  21. ^ SM, Lee Soo-man, 'Global Citizen' in Asia
  22. ^ Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream
  23. ^ SM and UNICEF children's music education program
  24. ^ SM Holds 'SMile Music Festival' for aspiring musicians
  25. ^ SM Entertainment, UNICEF conducts a campaign to support children in the Corona 19 educational crisis
  26. ^ SMTOWN FRIENDS sharing their volunteer work
  27. ^ Lee Soo-man, SM donated 1 billion won to the Korean Red Cross
  28. ^ ""SM 3년 전 코스닥 등록 때 이수만씨 수백억 시세 차익"".
  29. ^ ""이수만씨 비밀금고에 거액 보관"".
  30. ^ "LA골프장에 나타난 이수만씨".
  31. ^ "검찰, 이수만.서세원씨 '인터폴에 수배'".
  32. ^ "이수만씨 귀국, 검찰 조사".
  33. ^ "서세원-이수만씨 사전 영장청구".
  34. ^ "이수만·서세원씨 등 오늘 구속 수감".
  35. ^ "이수만씨 석방…서세원씨 적부심".
  36. ^ "[연예]이수만씨 불구속 기소".
  37. ^ "'자금횡령' 이수만씨 집행 유예".
  38. ^ Williamson, Lucy (15 June 2011). "The dark side of South Korean pop music". BBC News. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  39. ^ Han, Sang-hee (11 August 2009). "Is There a Solution for Slave contracts?". Korea Times. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  40. ^ Kim, Hyo-jin (3 December 2014). "K-pop stars punished by unfair contracts". Korea Times. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  41. ^ Hyun-su, Yim (4 October 2021). "Lee Soo-man named in leaked offshore data, S.M. Entertainment denies wrongdoing". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  42. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20180628125042/https://entertain.naver.com/read?oid=023&aid=0003383737. Archived from the original on 28 June 2018. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  43. ^ "한국콘텐츠진흥원". www.kocca.kr (in Korean). Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  44. ^ https://entertain.naver.com/read?oid=015&aid=0004463633. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  45. ^ "2016 Asia Game Changer Awards". Asia Society. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  46. ^ https://www.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2009/06/25/2009062501162.html. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  47. ^ a b https://www.hankyung.com/life/article/2007102053587. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  48. ^ Ahn, Jae-man (18 November 2011). 한·EU 산업협력의 날 22일 개최..이수만 회장 등 수상 [Korea-EU Industrial Cooperation Day will be Held on the 22nd, To be Attended by Chairman Lee Soo-man and Others]. Edaily (in Korean). Archived from the original on 18 February 2021. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  49. ^ Hong, Ji-young (8 December 2011). 조양호 위원장, 자랑스런 한국인 최고 대상 [Cho Yang-ho, Chairman of the Committee, Proud of Korea's Top Prize Winners]. SBS News (in Korean). Archived from the original on 18 February 2021. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  50. ^ Jung, Yu-na (21 July 2017). SM 이수만, 문화인사 최초 '2016 영산외교인상' 수상 [SM's Lee Soo-man Wins '2016 Yeongsan Diplomat Award 2016' for the First Time Among Cultural Figures]. Sports Chosun (in Korean). Chosun Ilbo. Archived from the original on 18 February 2021. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  51. ^ Jung, Chun-ki (8 November 2011). 신영균.이수만.하춘화씨 은관문화훈장 [Shin Young-kyun, Lee Soo-man, and Ha Chun-hwa, Silver Crown Order of Cultural Merit]. Yonhap News (in Korean). Archived from the original on 18 February 2021. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  52. ^ SM 이수만, LA 시장으로부터 공로패 받아 [SM's Lee Soo-man, Takes Credit from the Mayor of Los Angeles]. Jeonbuk Ilbo (in Korean). 18 June 2005. Archived from the original on 18 February 2021. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  53. ^ "The 2020 Billboard Impact List Revealed". Billboard. 23 January 2020. Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  54. ^ Kim, Yong-woon (7 October 2016). [2016문화파워] 올해 최고의 문화리더 '소설가 한강' [Han Kang, The Best Cultural Leader of the Year]. EDAILY (in Korean). Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  55. ^ Lee, Hyung-suk (26 December 2011). <굿바이 2011> 2011 대중문화 파워리더...'K팝 지휘자' 이수만 첫 1위 등극 [<Goodbye 2011> 2011 The Power Leader of Popular Culture, K-Pop Conductor Lee Soo-man's First Number One Spot]. Herald Business (in Korean). Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  56. ^ Lee, Il-ho (2 October 2018). 대학생이 뽑은 최고의 CEO는 '갓뚜기' 함영준 [The Best CEO by College Students is Ham Young-joon]. Insight Korea (in Korean). Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  57. ^ Cho, Hye-seung (2 October 2018). 이재용, '국가 경제발전 기여 경영인' 2년 연속 1위 [Lee Jae-yong Topped the List for the Second Consecutive Year of 'Executives Contributing to the National Economic Development']. Insight Korea (in Korean). Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  58. ^ Lee, Kyung-won (2 October 2015). 리더십 가장 잘 발휘하는 CEO 1위 구광모 LG 회장 [LG Chairman Koo Kwang-mo, The Number One Executive Showing Best Leadership]. Insight Korea (in Korean). Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  59. ^ Seo, Jung-min (22 January 2013). 문화산업 1인자 이수만에 대한 기록, 이수만 평전 [Records of Lee Soo-man, The Number One in the Cultural Industry, The Critical Biography Lee Soo-man]. Media Today (in Korean). Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  60. ^ "Former Sisa Journal reporters end conflict". The Hankyoreh. 27 June 2007. Archived from the original on 2 July 2007. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  61. ^ Kim, Ha-jin (31 October 2013). 임형주, '한국을 이끌 차세대리더 100인' 선정 [Lim Hyung-Ju, '100 Next Generation Leaders to Lead Korea' selected] (in Korean). Archived from the original on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  62. ^ Yeom, Kang-soo (18 August 2009). "누가 한국을 움직이나?" 시사저널 조사 ["Who is moving Korea?" Current Journal Survey]. The Chosun Ilbo (in Korean). Archived from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  63. ^ Kim, Hyo-sil (1 September 2014). ‘한겨레’, 신뢰도와 열독률 모두 ‘1위’ 언론 ['Hankyoreh', '1st place' in both reliability and reading]. The Hankyoreh (in Korean). Archived from the original on 20 August 2019. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  64. ^ Ko, Jae-yeol (15 July 2005). 누가 연예 산업을 움직 이는가 [Most Influential Person Moving the Entertainment Industry]. Sisa Journal (in Korean). Archived from the original on 14 January 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  65. ^ Lee, Eun-jung (16 March 2011). 이수만, '한국 대중음악 파워 100' 1위 [Lee Soo-man Tops 'Korean Pop Music Power 100']. Yonhap News (in Korean). Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  66. ^ a b "Lee Soo-Man - Variety500 - Top 500 Entertainment Business Leaders". Variety. 6 December 2017. Archived from the original on 29 December 2020. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  67. ^ "International Music Leaders of 2018". Variety. 4 June 2018. Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  68. ^ "International Music Impact Report 2019". Variety. 30 May 2019. Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021.

External links[edit]