SM Entertainment‘s founder Lee Soo Man recently appeared on tvN’s cultural affairs program Monthly Connect. He was asked about the past, present, and future of K-Pop (especially for SM Entertainment).

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The Past

Lee Soo Man confessed that he first had a critical gaze towards K-pop, as it didn’t take off very quickly.

There was a lot of criticism not only in foreign countries but also in Korea. I thought that the Korean entertainment market alone could not be an industry, let alone powerful. I thought that in order to industrialize, I would have to create a system capable of all functions. Thanks to that, we are currently at the success we have now.

—Lee Soo Man

 

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Lee Soo Man with H.O.T. in 1996 | minubun/YouTube

He particularly stated that “SNS development” was a turning point in K-Pop’s globalization.

From 2009 to 2010, when K-Pop slowly began to be loved, the SNS platforms grew significantly. The SM YouTube channel was opened for the first time in Korea. With the development of social media, you could watch K-Pop videos anywhere in the world.

—Lee Soo Man

The Present

As for the present, Lee Soo Man said that he is doing the usual. The company is preparing songs to be released and training rookies to debut. COVID-19 made it quite difficult, but he’s happy with how the online concerts and fan meetings turned out.

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He went on to say that he was amazed by the amount of work he has done in the industry, “People often come to us first and contact us directly. I think that our K-pop status has increased tremendously.

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Lee Soo Man with TVXQ and Kim Min Jong in 2012

However, he is a little self-conscious over his age (68) lately.

Because I’m old, my artists don’t call me ‘hyung’, they call me ‘father’. Even [TVXQ’s] Yunho said ‘‘Father’ is an honorable and respected title, but it conveys the message, ‘It’s not our generation.’‘ I think I need to communicate more with the younger generation.

—Lee Soo Man

The Future

We asked about the future of K-Pop, Lee Soo Man was quick to mention China.

K-pop will have its second revival in China. It is an era where we have to go to China to produce and create content so that it can become number 1 in the world. There are many talented individuals there.

—Lee Soo Man

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| tvN

He stressed that China needs to lift the ban on Korean culture so that Korean producers could “enter the Chinese market and [work with them] to create Asia’s Hollywood.

He also predicted that K-pop will be a part of many futuristic industries. He commented that as artificial intelligence (AI) and nanotech are increasingly developed, he wants to “present a new direction of K-Pop through ‘Culture Technology.’” He believes that the key to K-Pop’s growth is by continuing with an “industrial” system.

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aespa’s AI personas | SM Entertainment

He concluded with a broad dream for the future.

It’s my dream that Korea will be the country that becomes the leading content producing country in the world, leading the world culture.

—Lee Soo Man