Many people got their first introduction to Miky Lee on Sunday night, when the “Parasite” producer got in the final remarks after the film won the Oscar for best picture. What they might not know is how much she has influenced the entertainment they’ve been seeing and listening to for decades.
“It’s a historic moment,” Lee told The Times at a “Parasite” after-party Sunday night. “I don’t know what it means for Hollywood, but I definitely know what it means for us. This opens up doors for Korean moviemakers.”
So who is Miky Lee? Only the most powerful media mogul in South Korea. Here are seven nuggets to know about the 61-year-old heiress who took her share of the family fortune and grew it into a $4.1-billion media empire:
She is vice- chair of South Korea’s CJ Group
CJ Group was founded in the early 1950s by Lee’s grandfather, Lee Byung-chul, who was also the first Samsung chairman. CJ was a trading division that started with flour and sugar, then expanded into biotech and pharmaceuticals. The group was spun off from Samsung in 1993. Miky’s younger brother Lee Jay-Hyun — she thanked him in her Oscars speech — took over as CEO in 2002 but was absent starting in 2014 after he was arrested and convicted of embezzlement and tax evasion. Though he was pardoned two years later and returned to run the company in 2017, the vice chair ran CJ in his absence. Miky Lee also runs CJ E&M, the group’s entertainment and media spinoff.
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She’s a huge movie fan
“She’s a true cinephile who’s watched so many films and managed to bring over that fanatic passion to the world of business,” director Bong Joon Ho told the Hollywood Reporter. CJ financed “Parasite” as well as his films “Snowpiercer,” “Mother” and “Memories of Murder.” Her interest in television was born when she was a child watching shows being made at a TV studio owned by her grandfather.
She has a master’s degree from Harvard
Her educational resume is rather vast. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Seoul National University, then studied Chinese and linguistics at Taiwan National University and Japanese at Japan’s Keio University. The master’s in Asian studies came in 1986. She also studied Chinese literature and history at Fudan University in China.
She was an early investor in DreamWorks
In 1995, Lee urged CJ to invest $300 million in DreamWorks SKG in exchange for the right to distribute the new studio’s movies in Asia (with the exception of Japan). CJ became the second major investor in the studio formed by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, and Katzenberg told THR that without Lee and initial investor Paul Allen there would be no DreamWorks. The studio’s successes include the “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda” franchises plus 2019’s “Abominable.”
She brought the movie-multiplex to South Korea
The first multiplex was opened by the CGV division of CJ in 1998, and by 2004 it was the first movie chain listed on the Korean stock exchange. The company opened the largest IMAX theater in the world in Seoul in 2017.
She was a driving force behind K-pop’s global success
Lee told Wired in 2013 that her dream was “to see people around the world enjoying Korean culture.” To that end, KCON, billed now as “the world’s largest fan celebration of Korean culture and music,” was her idea. Launched in 2012, the event is now in multiple countries, including the U.S. In L.A, it now runs for four days annually, and fans get to have input on who they’d like to see each year. BTS played one of its first shows at KCON in 2014, and we know where that led.
She lives in Orange County
Yep — go figure. Lee Mi-kyoung, as she’s known in Korea, is also divorced and has no children.