Is SM Entertainment’s founder and former executive Lee Soo Man dreaming of a resurgence in China?
According to Ten Asia, Lee Soo Man is currently residing in Beijing, China, conducting idol auditions aimed at Chinese teenagers. Kim Han Goo, the CEO of CTP (CT Planning Limited), a Hong Kong corporation established by Lee, is accompanying him.
Rumors are buzzing that famed composer Yoo Young Jin is also participating in these auditions. Yoo and Lee were recently spotted together at an airport in China. Yoo Young Jin is one of Lee’s closest allies. When Lee faced conflicts with the SM management, Yoo sided with him, asserting that “SM without Lee Soo Man is not the real SM,” and subsequently parted ways with SM Entertainment.
Lee Soo Man’s “China Dream” is not new. He has been eying the Chinese market for nearly 20 years. In the case of EXO, the group debuted as EXO-M focusing on China and EXO-K on Korea. However, the Chinese members like Kris, Luhan, and Tao unilaterally left the team one after another, which basically turned his plan moot.
In a 2021 appearance on tvN’s Monthly Connect, he emphasized China as a “tremendously large market,” stating, “China has a population of 1.3 billion now. It’s an enormous market that is unparalleled in the world. China adopts and develops what we offer.” He added, “We must go there, teach, create with local talents, and aim to be number one in the world. This is the era of producing, and we hope to be the country of producers.”
In China, a nation he has long emphasized as crucial, Lee Soo Man appears to be forging a new Kwangya. It remains to be seen whether his plan will succeed this time.