Lee Soo-man

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Lee Soo-man
Born (1952-06-18) 18 June 1952 (age 68)
Seoul, South Korea
Alma materCalifornia State University, Northridge (MS)
Seoul National University
OccupationRecord producer
TitleFounder of SM Entertainment
Kim Eun-jin
(m. 1984; died 2014)
  • 2
  • John Hyunkyu Lee

Lee Soo-man (born 18 June 1952) is a South Korean record producer and best known as the founder of SM Entertainment, a multinational entertainment company based in Seoul, South Korea.[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 became one of the largest record labels and management companies in South Korea.


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

Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea on 18 June 1952, and attended Seoul National University on and off between 1971 and 1979.[3][4] He debuted as a singer in 1972, and became known for hit songs such as "행복 (Happiness)" and "한송이 꿈 (A Piece of Dream)". In addition to his career as a musician and his studies in university, he also worked as a radio DJ and TV host during this time.[4]

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,[5] 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]

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.[6] 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.[7]

On January 23, 2020, Lee Soo Man was listed by Billboard as one of the world's influential music industry leaders.[8][9]

On February 5, 2020, It was revealed by Jeff Benjamin writing for Forbes that Lee Soo Man worked on Korean Girl Group Loona EP [#] which was his first ever project away from namesake SM Entertainment.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Lee's wife, Kim Eunjin, died from cancer on 30 September 2014.[11][12][13] He is also the paternal uncle of Sunny, one of the members of the popular SM group Girls' Generation.[14]

Career Overview[edit]

  • 1989: Founded SM Studio, Seoul[15]
  • 1995: Founded SM Entertainment, Seoul[15]
  • 2000: SM Entertainment listed on KOSDAQ[15]
    • First entertainment company to IPO in Korea
  • 2001: Founded SM Entertainment Japan, Tokyo[15]
  • 2005: Founded SM Entertainment China, Beijing[15]
  • 2008: Founded SM Entertainment USA, Los Angeles[15]
  • 2011: Founded SM True, Bangkok[15]
    • SM Entertainment's first overseas joint venture
  • 2012: Launched Dream Maker Entertainment, Hong Kong[15]
    • Global concert production and promotion agency
  • 2020: Established Beyond Live Corporation, Seoul[15]
    • Online interactive concert platform
    • Produced the world's first ticketed "untact" AR online concert

Social Causes[edit]

  • Global Citizen, "Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream," 2021[16][17]
    • 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[18][19][20]
    • 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[21]
    • 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[22]
    • Personal donation for the victims of the Sewol Ferry incident, one of the gravest tragedies in South Korean history



  • 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)

Producer Highlights[edit]

BoA (2000)

  • Six consecutive #1 albums in Japan, becoming the first artist to open the Japanese market to the Korean industry[23]

TVXQ! (2003)

  • Remains the most successful Korean act in the Japanese market nearly 20 years since debut[24]

Super Junior (2005)

  • First truly global K-pop hit with 2009's "Sorry Sorry"[25]
  • First K-pop artist to enter Billboard's Latin Songs chart with 2018's "Lo Siento"[26]
  • No.1 on Taiwan's music site, KKBOX, for 150 consecutive weeks[27]

SHINee (2008)

  • One of the few international artists capable of regularly selling out stadium tours throughout the Japanese market[28]
  • Featured on both Rolling Stone's "75 Greatest Boy Band Songs of All Time"[29] and Billboard's "100 Greatest Boy Band Songs of All Time"[30]

f(x) (2009)

  • First-ever K-pop idols to be invited to showcase at SXSW,[31] and only idols to be featured in Korean critics’ definitive list of "Top 100 Korean Classic Albums"[32]

EXO (2012)

  • Debut album became the first release in more than a decade to record over 1 million Korean sales, with career sales over 12 million album units and counting[33]
  • In 2020, EXO member Baekhyun became the first Korean artist since 2000 to achieve a million-selling album as a solo artist[34]

Red Velvet (2014)

  • The first female Asian artists to have four #1s on the Billboard World Albums Chart[35]

NCT (2016)

  • Multiple NCT units now achieving over 1 million album sales per release[36]

WayV (2019)

  • Multiple #1 hits in mainland Chinese market to date, as well as the Chinese boy band with the most simultaneous iTunes #1 chart positions globally and most number one spots in Chinese boy group history[37]
  • Mnet Asian Music Awards’ "Best New Asian Artist" of 2019[38]

SuperM (2019)

  • Supergroup boy band featuring 7 of SM's biggest stars, produced by Soo-Man Lee at the request of Capitol Records for the American market[39]
  • Fastest artists to ever reach #1 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart, within just weeks of their announcement[40][41]


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 Disk 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]
International Business Society 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
South Korea 2002 Korean Culture Content Exportation Awards in Music
South Korea 2003 Korean Culture Content Exportation Awards in Music
South Korea 2011 Order of Cultural Merit [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 2005 Most Influential Person Moving the Entertainment Industry Placed [60]
Sound 2011 Korean Pop Music Power 100 1st [61]
Variety 2017 Variety500 Placed [62]
2018 Placed
International Music Leader 19th [63]
2019 11th [64]
Variety500 Placed [62]
2020 Placed


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  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. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  5. ^ Asia, Forbes. "Korea's S.M. Entertainment: The Company That Created K-Pop". Forbes. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  6. ^ 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."
  7. ^ Kun-ouc, Park (25 February 2010). "Lee Soo-man steps down from SM board of directors". 10 Asia. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  8. ^ Herald, The Korea (27 January 2020). "S.M. Entertainment chief producer makes Billboard's '2020 Impact List'". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  9. ^ "The 2020 Billboard Impact List Revealed". Billboard. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  10. ^ "K-Pop Industry Legend Lee Soo-Man Works On LOONA Album In First Project Away From Namesake SM Entertainment". Forbes. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  11. ^ "Lee Soo Man's (Former SM CEO) wife dies of cancer" (in Korean). Seoul: newsdaily.co.kr. 5 October 2014.
  12. ^ "SM Entertainment's Lee Soo Man's wife passes away | allkpop.com". www.allkpop.com. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  13. ^ "SM Entertainment Founder Lee Soo Man's Wife Passes Away After 2-Year Battle With Cancer". KpopStarz. 5 October 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  14. ^ lastdance2 (7 September 2017), SNSD Funny Clip #5- When you thought that your teammate is just a small fry..., retrieved 10 February 2018
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i SM Entertainment Timeline
  16. ^ SM, Lee Soo-man, 'Global Citizen' in Asia
  17. ^ Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream
  18. ^ SM and UNICEF children's music education program
  19. ^ SM Holds 'SMile Music Festival' for aspiring musicians
  20. ^ SM Entertainment, UNICEF conducts a campaign to support children in the Corona 19 educational crisis
  21. ^ SMTOWN FRIENDS sharing their volunteer work
  22. ^ Lee Soo-man, SM donated 1 billion won to the Korean Red Cross
  23. ^ SM along with BoA localization strategy serves as bridge between Korea and Japan
  24. ^ Japan's No. 1 concert mobilization power
  25. ^ 10 YEARS AGO, Super Junior's 'Sorry, Sorry' changed K-Pop forever
  26. ^ Super Junior enters Billboard's Latin Chart for the first time in K-pop
  27. ^ Super Junior broke the record of the longest number one on the Korean album chart of "KKBOX," Taiwan's largest online music site
  28. ^ Shinee, successful tour of Japan with 45,000 viewers in 3 days
  29. ^ #14, SHINee, "Sherlock" (2012)
  30. ^ #67, SHINee, "Lucifer" (2010)
  31. ^ f(x), idol's first SXSW participation, "K-pop announcement"
  32. ^ Top 100 Korean Classic Albums
  33. ^ EXO's cumulative album sales in Korea surpasses 10 million copies
  34. ^ EXO Baekhyun, Group, Solo Million Sellers
  35. ^ Red Velvet "First Girl Group" with four No. 1's on Billboard's World Albums Chart
  36. ^ NCT sold 1.21 million copies in a week, the rise of a million seller
  37. ^ WayV is the number one boy band in iTunes' history
  38. ^ 2019 MAMA, WayV wins New Asian Artist
  39. ^ SM launches global project 'SuperM' with US Capitol Music Group
  40. ^ With The 1st Mini Album ‘SuperM’ EP, The Super Group Becomes First Debut K-Pop Artist To Enter Billboard 200 At No. 1
  41. ^ SuperM Makes Super Synergy to Top Billboard 200 Chart
  42. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20180628125042/https://entertain.naver.com/read?oid=023&aid=0003383737. Archived from the original on |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help). 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. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  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. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  47. ^ a b https://www.hankyung.com/life/article/2007102053587. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  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. ^ 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.
  61. ^ 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.
  62. ^ a b "Lee Soo-Man - Variety500 - Top 500 Entertainment Business Leaders". Variety. Archived from the original on 29 December 2020. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  63. ^ "International Music Leaders of 2018". Variety. 4 June 2018. Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  64. ^ "International Music Impact Report 2019". Variety. 30 May 2019. Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2021.

External links[edit]