Lee Soo-man is a South Korean record producer and executive best known as the founder of SM Entertainment, a global entertainment company based in Seoul, South Korea. He has also been referred to as the president of culture, as he was a pioneer of the Korean Wave. Lee made his debut as a singer in 1971, while he was a student at Seoul National University. He founded SM Entertainment in 1989, which is now one of the largest record label and management companies in South Korea.
1952–1980: Early years and singing career
Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea on June 18, 1952, and attended Seoul National University on and off between 1971 and 1979. 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.
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
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, where he witnessed the rise of "superstars of the MTV generation" such as Michael Jackson. 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."
1985–present: Founding SM Entertainment
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. Lee's approach was targeted at teenage audiences, and took a holistic view of the qualities needed to become a successful entertainer. 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.
Lee's wife, Kim Eunjin, died from cancer on September 30, 2014. He is also the paternal uncle of Sunny, one of the members of the popular SM group Girls' Generation.
- 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
- 1976 MBC Music Festival: 'Top 10 Male Rookie of the Year'
- 1977 MBC Music Festival: 'Top 10 Artist of Year'
- 1997 SBS Seoul Music Award for 'Best Record Producer'
- 2000 Good Deed Artist Prime Minister Commendation Award
- 2002 Korean Culture Content Exportation Awards in Music
- 2003 Korean Culture Content Exportation Awards in Music
- 2004 SBS Music Awards Festival: 'Producer of the Year'
- 2005 Certificate of Merit as Honorary Ambassador of LA given by the Mayor of LA
- The Most Influential Person to Drive the Entertainment Industry from the weekly newsmagazine <Sisa Journal>
- China's South-East Music Chart Awards 'Best Overseas Producer'
- The 12th Korean Entertainment and Art Awards'Entertainment and Art Development Award'
- 2007 1st place as “The No.1 Power in the Entertainment Business” in both overall and music industry from the 3rd anniversary survey of Moneytoday Starnews
- ‘Global Frontier Award’ from the ‘Global CEO Award Winning Company Case Presentation and Awards’ (organized) by the International Business Society
- ‘Global CEO Award Winning Company Case Presentation and Awards’ (organized) by the International Business Society: 'Global Frontier Award'
- 2008 Mnet Golden Disk Award for 'Record Producer of the Year'
- 2009 Château Mouton Rothschild: 'Commanderie de Bontemps'
- 2011 1st place as “The Power Leader of Popular Culture” selected by The Herald Business
- Seoul Cultural Arts Awards for 'Best Popular Music Producer'
- The 2nd Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards: Order of Cultural Merit (the highest honor awarded at the Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards)
- 1st place as “The 100 Powerful People in Korean Popular Music” selected by the “SOUND”, a popular music magazine
- The 13th Academic Conference by Business Released Society: The first “Small but Strong Business Entrepreneur 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)
- The 6th Korea-EU industrial cooperation day: 'Korea-EU Cooperation Award’
- The 1st Korea Music Copyright Awards: 'The Best Record Producer'
- The 11th Proud Korean Awards: “National Prestige Award”
- 2012 The 1st Gaon Chart K-Pop Awards 'Kpop Contribution Award'
- The Korea Society 55th Anniversary Gala: 'Dinner Culture Award Honoree'
- 2016 'Best Producer of Asia Award' / Top Chinese Music The Annual Festival
- First Korean to receive 'Asia Game Changer Award' / Asia Society
- Ranked #1 in 'Cultural Leaders of the Year' / 2016 e-daily Culture Power
- 2017 First cultural figure to receive '2016 Youngsang Diplomat Award'
- 'Best Marketer Award' / 2017 Kotler Awards
- 2018 Selected as "International Music Leader 2018" by Variety Magazine
- 2018 Korea-China Management Awards‘Best Marketer’
- 4th place as “An executive who shows best leadership”
- 6th place as “An executive who contributes to the nation’s economic development”
- 10th place as “The best CEO by University students”