FLAS spotlight: Rose Adams

East Asian studies master's student Rose Adams received two Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships from the Center for East Asian Studies for her thesis on depictions of women in North Korean post-famine cinema and to study the Korean language. Read more about her experience below.

Why did you apply for the FLAS fellowship, and what drew you to this particular subject?

While it's hard to pinpoint when exactly I became interested in East Asian studies, my involvement in the field began with the choice to take Japanese for my foreign language elective in middle school. My approach to area studies is very much language-driven, although saying which caught my interest first is a bit of a chicken and egg problem. As much as I enjoy learning new languages and believe language skills are an invaluable life skill, the further I got into my college career, the larger the opportunity cost of all of my credits spent maintaining my languages. After talking about my language study concerns with a friend, she told me about FLAS and how they could fund both my language studies and my current research interest (North Korea).

Not only would FLAS funding return my investment on hundreds of hours of language study, but it would reduce what I perceived as the financial risks of pursuing a subject I loved. After all, North Korea is both a fascinating and highly relevant subject, but it was hard to justify the expense of an additional degree when the job market for North Korean affairs is so nebulous. FLAS made it possible for me to attend graduate school and conduct in-depth research without the looming specter of wondering if I had made the "right" decision financially. Just as importantly, the existence of a program like FLAS reassured me that there are others who share my belief that East Asian studies is a worthwhile and important field, now and in the future.

What did you do for your FLAS fellowship? In addition to the language training and area studies research, did you travel to any conferences to present your research or publish your findings?

I was lucky enough to be a FLAS fellowship recipient twice: once for graduate school and once for a language training program in Korea. The first FLAS fellowship culminated in my master's thesis on depictions of women in North Korean post-famine cinema. I presented an abridged version of this thesis at the Inter-University Center (IUC) program hosted by Sungkyungwan University (SKKU) in August 2021.

My second fellowship made up the funding shortfall I needed to participate in the IUC language intensive at SKKU. As part of our training, we conducted research and presented Korean language readings to practice applying our language skills to our research interests. I did my practice research on North Korean advertising and made a presentation of my preliminary findings at the end of the program for a small panel of Korean studies professors. After the program concluded, I continued my research on advertising using the language training I had received and extended my preliminary research into a full-length article. This article, about the transition towards indirect advertising (e.g., product placement) in North Korean broadcast media, will appear in the upcoming fall issue of North Korean Review.

What have you learned from this experience?

One of my favorite parts of graduate school was "North Korean movie night" with my friends. I needed to watch a dozen or so films multiple times as part of my research, so I sometimes invited friends to watch with me. In academia, it is easy to end up in a silo where your research is totally unrelated (and sometimes incomprehensible) to your friends, even within the same department. Watching movies together made my own research more enjoyable, as well as serving as an opportunity to compare takeaways and perspectives with my friends from different fields. I hope that going forward my studies can continue to be similarly collaborative.