The Korea Herald


SM CEO Lee Sung-soo exposes SM founder Lee Soo-man

By Hong Yoo

Published : Feb. 16, 2023 - 16:56

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CEO of SM Entertainment Lee Sung-soo (SM Entertainment) CEO of SM Entertainment Lee Sung-soo (SM Entertainment)

CEO of SM Entertainment Lee Sung-soo broke his silence on the internal business management feud between the founder and former SM producer Lee Soo-man and the co-CEOs of SM by releasing a statement via video Thursday.

Lee Sung-soo, who is also Lee Soo-man’s nephew, made allegations of offshore tax evasion against the founder and laid out 14 subjects he will touch upon from now on to explain why SM Entertainment decided it’s time to let go of him.

In his first video, the CEO claimed that Lee Soo-man established a company called CT Planning Limited in Hong Kong in 2019 using $1 million of SM assets but owned solely by himself. CTP is a foreign equivalent of Like Production, which is a production company in Korea also owned by the founder.

“Lee Soo-man takes 6 percent in royalties from SM and CTP for album consultation and producing. Making the production go through a foreign production company unnecessarily when all the production is done by us seems like an effort to avoid the surveillance of the National Tax Service,” claimed the CEO. “Our contract with the Hong Kong-based company still holds good even after we terminated business contracts with Like Production last year.”

The CEO also claimed that the founder had pushed his acquaintances among the SM executives to announce a statement saying SM still needs him, to sign contracts with CTP for album production, and to delay the launch of new albums to after April.

Lee Sung-soo also lifted the lid on why SM had to delay the comeback of its girl group, Aespa.

“Aespa’s new album was scheduled to be released around Feb. 20 but we had to delay it because Lee Soo-man had made our A&R team and other officials project sustainability, tree planting, and ESG on every major SM song,” Lee claimed. “He ordered Aespa to sing songs about tree planting that do not match their characters at all. The lyrics carried words like ‘Just Sustainability,’ ‘reducing one degree,’ ‘coexistence,’ and ‘greenism.’ Aespa members were very upset.”

SM decided to put off the comeback over concerns for Aespa as the songs were hard to relate to.

“Behind the messages of tree planting, sustainability, and ESG aimed at searching for new markets and enhancing cultural exchanges was Lee Soo-man’s greedy interest in real estate. He once actually requested ownership of a country’s land,” explained Lee Sung-soo. “He had once brought up legalizing marijuana to get tourists to go to casinos and festivals inside his music city (Lee Soo-man’s construction project)."

The CEO announced that SM hopes to start brand new with its project SM 3.0 and asked for fans’ support by tuning into SM’s music.

In response to the statement, Hybe announced it has no reason to get involved in any of the projects or campaigns that Lee Soo-man works on if it is not directly related to SM.

“We were not informed about the ESG-related campaigns run by Lee Soo-man when signing the deal to acquire his shares. Therefore, we are not informed about what CEO Lee claims,” Hybe added.