Vietnam’s picturesque victim: Phan Thi Kim Phuc

Phuc is a Canadian-Vietnamese subject of the Pulitzer Prize picture from the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972.

Born in Trang Bang, Vietnam in 1963. Trang Bang was the town that we know now as the site of the napalm bomb the South Vietnamese dropped according to the American military June 8th. Phúc joined a group of civilians and South Vietnamese soldiers who were fleeing from the Cao Dai Temple to the safety of South Vietnamese–held positions.

As a young adult, while studying medicine, Phúc was removed from her university and used as a propaganda symbol by the communist government of Vietnam. In 1986, however, she was granted permission to continue her studies in Cuba. She had converted from her family’s Cao Dai religion to Christianity four years earlier. Phạm Văn Đồng, the then–Prime Minister of Vietnam, became her friend and patron. After arriving in Cuba, she met Bui Huy Toan, another Vietnamese student and her future fiancé. In 1992, Phúc and Toan married and went on their honeymoon. During a refuelling stop in Gander, Newfoundland, they left the plane and asked for political asylum in Canada. It was granted. The couple now live in Ajax, Ontario, and have two children. In 1996, Phúc met the surgeons who had saved her life. The following year, she passed the Canadian Citizenship Test with a perfect score and became a Canadian citizen.

On December 28, 2009, National Public Radio broadcast her spoken essay, “The Long Road to Forgiveness,” for the “This I Believe” series. In May 2010, Phúc was reunited by the BBC with ITN correspondent Christopher Wain, who helped to save her life. On 18 May 2010, Phúc appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme It’s my Story. In the program, Phúc related how she was involved through her foundation in the efforts to secure medical treatment in Canada for Ali Abbas, who had lost both arms in a rocket attack on Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Kim Phuc Foundation was established in 1997 in the efforts to give psychological and medical aide to the victims of war. Later other similar foundations such as the Kim Phuc Foundation International were set under the same umbrella.

A book of Phuc’s life, The Girl in the Picture was published in 1997. In 2004 Phuc recieved an honourary Doctorate of Law from York University, again in 2005 she received a second law doctorate from Queens University. The Order of Ontario was given to Phuc in 2004. To this day Phuc continues to pioneer the struggle for support for child victims of war around the world.


About rebellioustudent

Anthropolgy and English student, extremely rebellious at heart and outspoken. I am going into my fourth year of an undergrad, after that who knows?
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