SM Entertainment has announced plans to export its unique artist development system to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. In a signed memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Investment Saudi Arabia (MISA), the agreement allows SME to enter the local market and promote joint projects. Soo-Man Lee, the firm’s Chief Producer, and Saudi Arabia Ministry of Investment H.E Deputy Fahad Al-Naeem signed the agreement on August 19th in a ceremony held at SM Entertainment’s headquarters in Seoul. The signing marks the first of its kind, as SM will become the first South Korean company to officially partner with the Saudi government to develop their entertainment business.
Among the joint projects stipulated in the MOU, SME will actively help to promote Saudi Pop through the cultivation and production of local artists. To nurture this development SM will establish a metaverse platform to share Korean and Saudi cultures. Along with talent development, SM will oversee the launch of a year-round music venue located on the Red Sea – Qiddiya, a vast entertainment resort with an investment of more than 100 trillion won ($82.1 billion). By 2035 the venue will be capable of hosting diverse concerts and festivals to further grow tourism in the region. Lee has been an advisor for the project since 2019.
Earlier in 2022, SM Lee visited Riyadh to meet with local cultural officials, and in June Saudi Minister of Culture Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud visited the SM office to discuss future cooperation for the development of the culture. In talks with Princess Haifa, it was revealed that the Kingdom regarded the entertainment industry as one of the most important sectors of future growth. An SM Entertainment source explained, “The music market in the Middle East grew to 750 billion won last year with an average growth of 30% a year in the recent few years, The Middle East that producer Lee penetrated is expected to be SM’s new source of earnings.”
Lee said: “I’m happy to sign a business agreement with the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Investment. I hope this agreement will bring forth great results for myself, SM, and Saudi Arabia. With the CT (Culture Technology) system I have established, I plan to discover local talents to produce S-Pop, and establish a music ecosystem that young people in Saudi Arabia can enjoy. We hope that it will contribute to the development of the future cultural industry in Saudi Arabia.”