Lee Soo-man

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Not to be confused with Lee Man-soo.
This is a Korean name; the family name is Lee.
Lee Soo-man
Born (1952-06-18) 18 June 1952 (age 64)
Seoul, South Korea
Nationality South Korean
Education M.A. in Computer Engineering
Alma mater California State University, Northridge
Seoul National University
Occupation Founder of S.M. Entertainment
Net worth US$168 million (2013)
Relatives Kim Eun-jin (wife)
Lee Hyeon-gyu (son)
Sunny (niece)
Korean name
Hangul 이수만
Hanja 滿
Revised Romanization I Su-man
McCune–Reischauer Yi Su-man

Lee Soo-man is a South Korean music executive and record producer. He is best known as the founder of S.M. Entertainment, a prominent South Korean entertainment company.[1] He is also called the 'President of Culture', as he was a pioneer of the Hallyu Wave. Lee Soo-man made his debut as a singer in 1972, when he was a student at Seoul National University. He founded S.M. Entertainment in 1989, which is now the largest management and record label in South Korea. Although he stepped down from the board in 2010, he remains the largest shareholder, with a 21.3% stake.[2] According to The Korea Herald, as of December 2013, Lee's stock holdings amounted to KR₩187 billion (USD$168 million), making him the richest stockholder in Korean entertainment.[3]


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

Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea on 18 June 1952, and attended Seoul National University between 1971 and 1979.[4][5] He debuted as a singer in South Korea in 1972, releasing songs such as "Happiness" and "One piece of dream". Besides singing, he also worked as a DJ and TV host.[5]

In 1980, he formed the band 이수만과 365일 (Lee Soo Man and 365 days). However, media censorship policies under the Chun Doo-hwan government discouraged him from a career in the Korean music industry.

1980–1985: Studying in U.S.[edit]

In the early 1980s, Lee decided to leave the entertainment world in order pursue a career in computer engineering. He moved to California to work on a master's degree at California State University, Northridge,[2] where concurrently he witnessed the rise of "superstars of the MTV generation" such as Michael Jackson.[1] Inspired by the rise of the MTV era in the United States, the ambitious Lee focused on setting his sights on forging and laying the foundation for the modern South Korean pop music industry similarly modeled after the United States. In 1985, he returned to Korea "with a vision of what the Korean music industry could be."[5]

1985–present: Founding S.M. Entertainment[edit]

Following his return to Korea, Lee ventured back into the entertainment world 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' in the Apgujeong neighborhood of Seoul (naming the business after his initials) 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.[5] Lee's approach was targeted at teenage audiences, and took a holistic view of the qualities needed to become a successful musician.[6] The business eventually reemerged and traded as S.M. Entertainment in 1995.

In February 2010, Lee resigned from his position as a member of the board of directors at S.M. Entertainment, but maintained a role in the business's "management and artist development" division.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Lee Soo-man's wife, Kim Eun Jin, died from cancer on 30 September 2014.[8][9][10]



  • Lee Soo-man, 1977
  • Lee Soo-man, 1978
  • 애창곡집, 1978
  • Greatest, 1980
  • Lee Soo-man, 1983
  • Lee Soo-man, 1985
  • 끝이 없는 순간, 1986
  • NEW AGE 2, January 1989
  • NEW AGE, November 1989


  • 1997 SBS Seoul Music Award for Best Record Producer
  • SBS Seoul Music Award for Most Popular Song Producer
  • 1998 SBS Seoul Music Award for "Best Record Producer"
  • 2000 Good Deed Artist Prime Minister Commendation Award
  • 2004 SBS Producer of the Year
  • 2005 Certificate of Merit as Honorary Ambassador of LA given by the Mayor of LA
  • China's South-East Music Chart Awards:Best Overseas Producer
  • 2008 Mnet Golden Disk Awardfor Record Producer of the Year
  • 2009 Château Mouton Rothschild: Commanderie de Bontemps
  • 2011 Seoul Cultural Arts Awards for Pop Music Producer's Award
  • The 2nd Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards The Orders of Cultural Merit (the highest honor awarded at the Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards)
  • 1st Korean Music Copyright Awards: Album Producer
  • 2012 1st Gaon Chart K-Pop Awards Kpop Contribution Award
  • The Korea Society 55th Anniversary Gala: Dinner Culture Award Honoree
  • 2016 16th Top Chinese Music Award


  1. ^ a b "Lee Soo Man: Taking Korean Pop Culture Global". Stanford Graduate School of Business. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  2. ^ a b Asia, Forbes. "Korea's S.M. Entertainment: The Company That Created K-Pop". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  3. ^ Herald, The Korea. "Lee Soo-man richest stockholder in entertainment". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  4. ^ "KPOP NEWS - SM's Lee Soo Man Speaks at Seoul Natl. University as Alumni Speaker | Mwave". mwave.interest.me. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  5. ^ a b c d [http:// editorial/history-k-pop-chapter-4-how-lee-soo-mans-first-big-fail-resulted-koreas-modern-pop-star "The History of K-pop, Chapter 4: How Lee Soo Man's First Big Fail Resulted in Korea's Modern Pop Star System | MoonROK"] Check |url= value (help). moonrok.com. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  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. ^ "Lee Soo Man's (Former SM CEO) wife dies of cancer" (in Korean). Seoul: newsdaily.co.kr. 5 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "SM Entertainment's Lee Soo Man's wife passes away | allkpop.com". www.allkpop.com. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  10. ^ "SM Entertainment Founder Lee Soo Man's Wife Passes Away After 2-Year Battle With Cancer". KpopStarz. 2014-10-05. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 

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