Soo-Man Lee
Robert Kenney/AP
Korea (South)

S.M. Entertainment



Founder of Korean music behemoth S.M. Entertainment, Lee has been credited as the man who sparked the K-pop industry. Inspired by MTV to launch Korea’s first babyfaced “idol” boy band, H.O.T., he championed upbeat dance music mixed with stylish visuals that had never existed in the country’s pop scene. The group soared, officially launching the “Korean Wave,” a term initially used to describe Chinese fans’ craze for the genre but now expanded to mean the incorporation of Korean culture worldwide. The boom has been followed by successful S.M. acts including Shinhwa, TXVQ, Girls Generation and, its latest phenomena, Exo and NCT. Lee was also an early recruiter of Korean-American and Chinese trainees, which has become an important trend for K-pop to appeal overseas. 


  • S.M. Entertainment
  • S.M. Studio


  • California State University–Northridge (CA, USA)
  • Seoul National University (Korea)


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