Do Kpop Idols Lip Sync? K Pop Lip Syncing Explained [2023]

Written By Eden

Hi there! I'm Eden, a kpop fan, student and online entrepreneur. I created Cute Frog Creations to help you become the ultimate kpop fan!

Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Eden

Seeing your favorite k-pop idols perform on stage in person is a huge thrill. From music shows to concerts to festivals, there’s just nothing that beats a live performance. 

But if you’re a newer fan, you might be wondering: do kpop idols lip sync?

Here’s the truth. Yes, k-pop groups do lip sync from time to time and you’re not always hearing 100% live vocals when you’re watching Korean idols perform. 

Here’s a closer look at why kpop groups and idols lip-sync and how it works. 

printable kpop journal

Featured Item: Kpop Journal

Looking for a fun way to keep track of your favorite boy groups or girl groups? Check out this cute kpop journal (download + print or use with Goodnotes!)

Why Do Kpop Idols Lip Sync?

While it might seem weird to some kpop fans for idol groups to put on a lip-synced performance when they’re supposed to be showing offer their vocals, it’s not unusual in the k-pop industry. But why do kpop idols lip sync at all? 

Stray Kids’ leader Bang Chan, who’s signed under JYP Entertainment, revealed some of the reasons why the act of lip-syncing is so commonplace in kpop. 

During a 2022 episode of Chan’s Room, Chan explained that lip syncing is sometimes necessary because idols constantly follow a busy schedule. During the promotions period for a comeback, for example, an idol’s daily routine might include:

  • In-person fan meetings
  • Online fan calls
  • Being a guest on a radio broadcast
  • Performing on a music program
  • Holding a live stream with fans 

​All of that can mean lots of talking, which can put a strain on the idols’ vocals. Lip-syncing helps ensure that kpop groups are still putting on a good performance when they’re doing live shows.

Stray Kids Bang Chan also pointed out that a lot of kpop idol groups aren’t just known for their singling ability; they also have to put on an intense dance stage during the performance. Lip-syncing makes it easier for idols to keep up with difficult choreography without having to worry about voice cracks or heavy breathing detracting from the overall stage performance. 

Idols can also lip sync if they’re tired or not feeling well, or if their company requires them to do so. Aespa fans, for example, have raised plenty of complaints about SM Entertainment forcing them and other company artists to lip sync during “live” performances. 

Keep in mind that it’s not just Korean idols that lip sync.

While it’s less common, Japanese idols do sometimes perform to a backing track. Some Western artists have also drawn their fair share of criticism over lip-syncing. (See: Ashlee Simpson and Saturday Night Live.)

How Does Lip Syncing in Kpop Work?

In kpop, to lip sync means one of two things usually:

  • All Recorded (AR) performances. In this case, the idol fully lip-syncs to a studio recording of the song. There is no live singing at all. 
  • Music Recorded (MR) performances. With these performances, the idols are singing live on top of a backing track. 

​Here’s how to tell the difference if you’re watching your first performance of a kpop group. If the song sounds exactly like the studio version, then it’s probably All Recorded and there’s no live singing happening. 

When Do Kpop Idols Lip Sync?

With MR performances, idol groups record a song that’s used solely for live performances. They can even go as far as recording breathing sounds to make it sound like they’re singing and dancing at the same time. In reality, they’re only singing part of the time on top of the playback music. 

When groups are performing on music shows, the show can adjust volumes individually for each member of the group. So the main vocalist’s backing track might be at 30% while the rest of the group is at 50% or 70%. 

Meanwhile, the group might coordinate with their backup dancers to make any lip syncing that’s happening during the performance less noticeable. That’s all part of lip sync stage writing and it’s something that’s been done for a long time in the kpop industry. 

When Do Kpop Idols Lip Sync?

There are different scenarios when kpop idols might lip sync. Some of the most common examples of when you might see a lip-synced vocal performance include:

  • Appearances on music shows, like Music Core or M Countdown
  • A single performance at a music awards show
  • When attending large-scale events with other groups or idols, like MBC Music Festival
  • At solo concerts

Idols can also lip sync when the conditions of the venue don’t allow them to perform fully live. But does that mean they don’t have good skills?

Not at all and it’s important not to measure their talent by a single performance alone. Seeing an idol’s lip sync stage one time shouldn’t be the standard that you use to gauge a group’s performance skills overall. 

​Public Opinion on Lip Syncing in Kpop

The lip sync debate has plenty of arguments in favor of it and a long list of counter arguments against it. 

Some kpop fans are okay with watching a live performance that technically isn’t 100% live. They understand that kpop idols’ dance routines might make singing an entire song live challenging, especially when it features intense choreography. 

Other fans and people in the music industry take an unfavorable view of lip sync. They believe that kpop companies should put more of an emphasis on idols’ singing, especially when they have excellent skills, versus focusing on pulling off a “perfect” performance onstage. 

Hot debates have been sparked by so-called lip sync scandals. 

For example, there was lots of criticism in the online community over IVE”s Leeseo and Jang Won-young lip syncing at the 2022 MBC Gayo Daejejeon. On December 31st, the duo performed a cover song of IU’s “Strawberry Moon” as part of a special stage during the year-end awards ceremony. 

The issue that people had with Wonyoung and Lee Seo’s stage has nothing to do with their singing ability. It was the fact the performance was a seated stage with no heavy choreography. Fans argued that seated lip syncing was unacceptable, with some even calling it shameful. 

During the height of the controversy, a proposed bill introduced in May 2011 got some renewed attention. Lee Myung-Soo, a member of the Liberty Forward Party, suggested that lip-syncing should be banned completely as a “fraudulent act of scam”. 

The bill never went anywhere because of the excessive punishments associated with it. However, plenty of fans referred to it while discussing Leeseo and Jang Won-young’s lip sync “scandal”. 

Personally, I have mixed feelings about kpop idols who lip sync. 

On one hand, I understand that if the main vocalist is doing hard choreo during a concert, hitting a perfect high note while performing complicated dance moves might be harder to do if not impossible. At the same time, if I’ve spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on kpop concert tickets, I expect to hear a live performance for a good bit of the show. 

​Idols know this and that’s why you’ll sometimes see them ad-libbing in the middle of a performance or putting down the mics to show that they’re actually singing live. YG groups Big Bang and Blackpink have done this. I’ve also seen members of Tomorrow X Together and Ateez ad-lib in concerts to clap back at haters who accused them of lip syncing.

Do Kpop Idols Lip Sync?

Music shows are a little different. 

In that scenario, I assume that the sound quality needs to be better since the show is being broadcast to a large audience, not just the idol fans who are in the studio. Of course, the broadcasting company wants to make sure that everyone watching is satisfied so a little bit (or a lot) of lip syncing usually isn’t seen as that big of a deal. 

Whether kpop’s expansion into the global market will shift the way groups and kpop companies approach lip syncing remains to be seen. 

Fans of Western artists like Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran have come to expect live vocals as the standard for concerts. For some of those fans who get into kpop, seeing lip syncing during the stage of their favorite idol might be a little shocking at first. 

If more fans speak out against lip syncing in kpop, then it’s possible that more companies may be encouraged to give their artists opportunities to show off their live vocals and singing skills. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is lip syncing banned in kpop?

No, contrary to internet rumors lip syncing is not banned in the Korean music industry. China, however, has passed legislation that bans idols and stage performers from lip syncing of any kind. 

Do kpop idols lip sync in concerts?

​Lip syncing can happen during kpop concerts, though from my experience, idols and idol groups attempt to sing live as much as possible. If there is some lip syncing happening, it usually involves idols singing along to a backing track rather than completely lip syncing the song with no live performance at all. 

Do k-pop singers actually sing live?

Yes, plenty of kpop singers do sing live. They can sing live on music shows, at concerts, during performances on awards shows or at appearances in festivals. 

Final Thoughts

Do kpop idols lip sync? Yes. Is it a bad thing? It really depends on how much you understand the kpop industry and your personal preferences. Seeing idols sing and dance on a music show or awards show is not the same as seeing them perform at a concert. I for one, would not want to pay for a “live” concert that’s completely lip-synced. At the end of the day though, kpop fans have to acknowledge that lip syncing isn’t going away, at least any time soon. 

Save 10% in the Cute Frog Creations shop when you join our email list!

And get the latest blog posts + updates delivered to your inbox!

    Do kpop idols lip sync stages spoil the performance? Tell us what you think!

    3 thoughts on “Do Kpop Idols Lip Sync? K Pop Lip Syncing Explained [2023]”

    Leave a Comment