Lee, the only South Korean in the finals, came up short of winning the country's first medal at the ongoing Winter Games.
In the seven-man final, Lee started the 13 1/2-lap race in the back of the pack. He moved up to fifth place with nine laps to go, and passed another skater in the next lap. That was as close as Lee came to winning a medal, however, as he slipped to sixth place with four laps left and never recovered.
Charles Hamelin of Canada took the gold in 2:14.985, and Han Tianyu of China got the silver in 2:15.055.
Viktor Ahn of Russia took the bronze in 2:15.062. He was born Ahn Hyun-soo in South Korea, but became a Russian citizen in 2011, having won three Olympic gold medals for South Korea in 2006.
Lee and Ahn were college teammates in Seoul.
South Korea has been by far the most successful country in Olympic short track since it became a medal sport in 1992. Heading into Sochi, South Korea had won 19 gold medals and 37 medals overall, more than any other nation in both categories. South Korea is also the only country to have won at least one short track gold medal at every Winter Games.
Also on Monday, Kim A-lang, Park Seung-hi and Shim Suk-hee reached the quarterfinals in the women's 500ｍ.
Thirty-two skaters were divided into eight groups of four, and the top two from each group booked their spots in the semifinals.
Kim finished second in the first group, while Park ranked first in the fourth group and Shim was second in the eighth group. The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will all take place on Thursday. No South Korean woman has won Olympic gold in the 500ｍ.
Wang Meng of China, who has three World Cup titles in the 500ｍ
this season, is missing the Sochi Games due to a broken foot.
Shim and Park later teamed up with Cho Ha-ri and Kong Sang-jeong to put South Korea in the finals of the 3,000ｍ relay.
The South Korean quartet will go up against Canada, China and Italy in the finals on Feb. 18.
South Korea won four consecutive Olympic gold medals in the women's relay starting in 1994, but the streak was snapped in 2010, when the team was disqualified in the final for interference after finishing the race with what would have been a world record time. (Yonhap)