Miky Lee:

The Multicultural Businesswoman Who Helped Bring Korean Cinema and Music to the World Stage


Korea  K-Pop  K-Drama 

Miky Lee is a prominent figure in the South Korean media industry and vice chairman of the CJ Group, a leading South Korean conglomerate with interests in entertainment, media, food, and retail. Her family's business philosophy of supporting the next generation has led to CJ Group's significant investments in the entertainment industry, making it a major player on the global stage. Lee's background and skills have allowed her to overcome personal challenges and contribute significantly to the growth of the Korean entertainment industry.


Lee's grandfather, Lee Byung-chul, was the founder of Samsung, and he encouraged his grandchildren to be entrepreneurial and work in the family company if they could prove themselves. Lee and her brother invested in DreamWorks SKG, becoming the second-largest shareholder and learning from the best in the entertainment industry. Lee's ambition and vision for the content industry in Korea helped to reinvent aspects of the culture, media, and entertainment industries in the 1990s. The dismantling of authoritarian restrictions on content in the 1990s marked a new era for the Korean film industry, and Lee's company, CJ Entertainment, opened South Korea's first multiplex in 1998, paving the way for the company's involvement in local film production.

Under Miky and Jay Lee, CJ Entertainment started acquiring indie titles before the delivery of DreamWorks movies. The success of CJ Entertainment's films paralleled Lee's vision of the company's mission, which remains unchanged despite its diversification and growth. CJ Entertainment has put a heavy emphasis on TVing, its streaming service, as a challenger to Netflix. Lee credits DreamWorks founders with teaching her a profound lesson about respecting and understanding people in the entertainment business.


Miky Lee's commitment to nurturing talent and supporting creators has been a hallmark of her career. She is known for her passion for film and storytelling and has played a significant role in bringing Korean cinema to the world stage. Her ability to identify and back talented filmmakers is admired by colleagues in the industry. Recently, Lee led CJ Group's acquisition of production-distribution company Endeavor Content, marking the company's biggest move into the Western market to date.


Lee's multicultural background and social and business skills have allowed her to overcome personal challenges and surmount career setbacks. She is a key figure in CJ ENM's push into the US entertainment market, where she has been instrumental in the production of the documentary "K-Pop: Lost in America" and underpins the company's expansion in contemporary music. She also secretly purchased Endeavor Content, which has given CJ ENM a significant presence in Hollywood. CJ ENM has been seeking to decentralize global entertainment production and exploit the current demand for Korean content. Its recent M&A moves in the US demonstrate a more determined strategy to build on this.


However, CJ Group's leadership has faced significant turmoil in the past decade. South Korea's first woman president, Park Geun-hye, pressured the company to make more patriotic films and blacklist creative talent who didn't sign on to her nationalist agenda. Miky Lee was targeted by Park for making CJ movies and TV content that she disliked, and CJ executives testified against Park at her impeachment trial in 2017. Jay Lee was jailed for embezzlement and breach of trust, and his children designated as CJ heirs were not ready to take over, so the group was operated by an emergency management committee for two years.


In addition to her business acumen, Miky Lee has a personal passion for film and storytelling. Her influence on the Korean film industry has been immense, and she is widely credited with helping to bring Korean cinema to the world stage. One of the most notable examples of this is the success of director Bong Joon-ho, whose film "Parasite" won the Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and went on to win four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Bong Joon-ho has been a long-time collaborator with CJ Entertainment and has credited Miky Lee for her support and belief in his work.


Bong Joon-ho's success is emblematic of the larger success of the Korean entertainment industry, which has experienced a surge in popularity and influence in recent years. One of the most visible aspects of this success is the global popularity of K-pop, a genre of popular music originating from South Korea. K-pop has become a cultural phenomenon, with groups like BTS and Blackpink garnering millions of fans around the world.


The success of K-pop can be attributed to a variety of factors, including the hard work and dedication of its performers, the innovative marketing strategies of its agencies, and the support of passionate fans. However, it is also worth noting the role that Miky Lee and her family's company CJ Entertainment have played in the growth of the industry. CJ Entertainment has been involved in the production and distribution of K-pop content, and Miky Lee has been a vocal advocate for the genre.


Miky Lee's contributions to both the film and music industries have been recognized with numerous awards and honors. In 2020, she was named one of Forbes Asia's "50 Power Businesswomen" and was also included in Variety's list of "500 Most Important People in Global Media." She has been recognized for her leadership and vision in the entertainment industry, as well as her commitment to fostering talent and promoting diversity.


In conclusion, Miky Lee's impact on the Korean entertainment industry cannot be overstated. Her family's legacy and business philosophy have helped to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in South Korea, and her personal passion for film and storytelling has helped to bring Korean cinema to the world stage. Her support for K-pop and other forms of Korean entertainment has played a significant role in the industry's growth and success. Miky Lee's story is a testament to the power of vision, hard work, and determination in the face of adversity.