Article InformationEdit

Title: Communicating dioxin risks with or without scientific justifications in the Korean society

Author(s): Seohyun Park

Affiliation: State University of New York

Presented At: STiS 2008

Primary Topic Area: Health Policy


Researchers have shown that scientific risk assessment is limited in its ability to predict long-term risks and each society may communicate the risks in different ways. Dioxin risks are notoriously controversial, involving many social and political issues and complexities. This article investigates the way in the Korean society has communicated and responded to the risks of dioxins. The framework developed for this research present the social interactions (or, communication processes) among the media representations and social responses. Based of this conceptual framework, I conducted content analyses of mass media and governmental documents. The Korean mass media has portrayed various potential paths and impacts of dioxin risks: including, hormonal risks (ecological and inter-generational impacts) as well as cancer risks (individual lifetime health impacts), and not only technical source (e.g. incineration) but also cultural source (e.g. convenience-oriented ‘take-out’ culture). In response to these representations, multiple social actors have performed various risk-related actions: for examples, voluntary movements reducing the use of disposable and plastic materials; regulatory responses to technological sources of dioxins; policy changes on waste management; citizen watchdog groups monitoring dioxin sources; and technological adjustments to the practice of incineration. Based on these findings, I depict the social representations of the risk and the social responses to the risk. The results provide valuable implications, regarding social aspects of chemical risks. In further study, I examine the influence of social psychological or cultural factors in communicating long-term risk and uncertainty.

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