Media discourse creates and shapes views of personhood, of possibilities, of wellness, and at the same time, these views and beliefs, in their turn, shape media discourse. Broadcasts of health-related edutainment programs and advertisements are rich sources for the discovery of stances concerning health and illness. We examine media discourse in the United States and South Korea, and uncover consistent indexical patterns pointing to overall ideologies of fatalism in the U.S. and optimism in South Korea. Specifically, from an indexicality-based perspective, we identify the patterned ways in which the ideologies of fatalism and optimism are indexed with regard to agency and stance. We provide evidence of the culturally distinct patterns of discourse that construct health and illness in the U.S. and South Korean media. In the U.S., heart disease and cancer are threats, medicines are omnipotent, and physicians, omniscient. “Death” is explicit and medicines and physicians hold it at bay. Korean discourse frames “life” as explicit underscoring efforts by doctors and medicines to prolong and enhance it. Implications associated with public health discourses employing diverse discursive strategies are discussed.


Media Discourse, Discourse Analysis, Indexicality-Based Perspective, Health Discourse, Optimism, Pessimism, US and South Korea

Author Bio(s)

Soo Jung Hong is a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania, USA. She holds a BA in English language and literature and an MA in media and cultural studies from Korea University in South Korea and another MA in health and intercultural communication from The University of Oklahoma. Her academic interest centers on the development of narrative health messages, socio-cultural influence on health message processing/effect, cross-cultural media discourse analysis, and social scientific and linguistic approaches to heath communication. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Soo Jung Hong at, soh5220@psu.edu.

Susan Strauss is an associate professor in the Departments of Applied Linguistics, Curriculum and Instruction, and Asian Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her area of research centers on discourse and the relationships between discourse, culture, and cognition. She specializes in cross-cultural, cross-linguistic, and cognitive grammatical studies based on English, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Persian, and Amharic. She is co-author of the (2014) book Discourse Analysis: Putting our Worlds Into Words (Routledge). Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: Susan Strauss at, sgs9@psu.edu.


Both authors contributed equally to this study.

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