A festive life in an era of romance

Former president of Chungmu Arts Center and dean of the Graduate School of Culture, 

Arts, and Design at Dankook University Lee Jongduck

Lee Jongduck first encountered the performing arts in 1963, 

when he entered the Ministry of Culture and Public Information’s (today’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism) 

Department of Culture. 

He served as the performing arts director at Korea’s key performing arts institutions — 

including the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and Seongnam Arts Center — starting at the Seoul Arts Center in 1995. 

In 2016, Lee resigned as president of Chungmu Arts Center (formerly Chungmu Art Hall) 

in favor of a university setting where he now teaches his experiences as the first “arts CEO” in Korea to 

future leaders of the performing arts. 

As the person who helped write the history of Korea’s performing arts but who never took the stage — 

he who was never the artist vying for the spotlight, but rather the one setting the stage for such an artist — 

this is the story of Lee Jongduck, the former president of Chungmu Arts Center.

Lee Jongduck is descended from Won-ik Lee, a high-ranking government official of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) 

who is famous in Korean history for his moral fortitude and for having served in what is today the prime minister’s role 

under three kings (Seonjo, Gwanghaegun, Injo). 

Won-ik Lee, who spent 40 of his 60 years of government service as a high-ranking official, 

was both honest and got along easily with his peers. He was spoken of positively, even by his biggest political enemies. 

Lee Jongduck, who dedicated over 50 years to the performing arts industry and spent 20 of those years 

as the leader of some of Korea’s most prominent performing arts institutions, is very similar to his well-recognized ancestor.

The institutions at which Lee served throughout his career — Seoul Arts Center, Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, 

Seongnam Arts Center, Chungmu Arts Center — all underwent significant changes while he was there. 

The institutions became places that served locals’ needs and which produced consistently popular original performances 

(as opposed to borrowing of foreign works), a truly rare feat in Korea. 

While successfully inviting famous foreign artists and art institutions to perform in Korea,

under Lee’s stewardship, the institution achieved a remarkable degree of financial independence and 

was able to reap the benefits of profitmaking performances. 

Through such accomplishments, Lee passed many milestones in the Korean performing arts community 

that will undoubtedly be discussed for years to come. Lee’s scintillating accomplishments, 

especially in an era in which the term “arts management” was still largely unknown, 

are the reason that many artists and journalists have dubbed Lee Korea’s first “arts CEO.”

There are many stories about Lee that are still floating around the industry, 

such as his expression of his vote of confidence about the labor union —

thanks to which he was able to finish his term as president — 

the fact that employees wept bitterly on the final day of his presidency, 

and the fact that several of the staff followed him out of Chungmu Arts Center when he left. 

They are proof that Lee was a truly central pillar, holding up both the performing arts industry and his employees. 

The stories also clearly show what Lee chose to focus on in the management of the Chungmu Arts Center: 

For the artists on the stage, the employees who made the stage, and even for the audience, 

Jongduck Lee was a star of Korea’s performing arts — a star that has not yet lost its shine.

Lee spent most of his life behind the stage. 

He explained his management philosophy as follows: “Art truly flowers when it is spotlighted by the public,

with the artist who was responsible for the flowering being the ‘belle’ of the artistic ball. 

I believe that art management is the undersketch of my life. 

The very existence of art management is for the advancement of art.

When art is duly recognized for its innate value, all traces of me are erased without a trace. 

Just as the undersketch of a painting is never visible, the ultimate goal of art management is to disappear into the art.”

For Lee, who describes his lifelong dedication behind the bright lights of the stage as “festive,” the festival is never truly over.

edit Kim Jeongwon

photo Lucy

  • +82-02-6203-1532
    WEEKLY 09:00 - 18:00
    LUNCH 12:00 - 13:00
  • HANA BANK 814301-04-128793
    GUIDE ME Co.,Ltd

  • COMPANY GUIDE ME Co., Ltd. OWNER Hwang, Soon Shin C.P.O Hwang, Soon Shin
    E-mail cs@festivalall.com CALL CENTER +82-02-6203-1532
    MALL ORDER LICENSE 2018-서울마포-0546 [사업자정보확인] BUSINESS LICENSE 492-87-00869
    ADDRESS 203-35 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul