Phan Thị Kim Phúc is best known as the nine-year-old child depicted in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken during the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972. The iconic photo, taken in Trang Bang by AP photographer Nick Ut, shows her at nine years of age running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back by a South Vietnamese napalm attack.
Phúc will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters at UUC’s graduation on Saturday, June 25th. Graduation will be held at 2:30pm at the Garden Grove United Methodist Church, 12741 Main Street, Garden Grove. The public is invited to attend.
After snapping the photograph, Ut took Kim Phúc and the other injured children to Barsky Hospital in Saigon, where it was determined that her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive. After a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgical procedures including skin transplantations, however, she was able to return home.
Years later as a young adult 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.
"God brought me to the point where he let me see so clearly that I was seeking peace and needed somebody to come in my life and take away my burden," Kim remembers. "I heard a Christmas message from a pastor in Saigon, Vietnam. He said that baby Jesus came to the world to die on the cross, to give us peace and take away our burdens. I said 'Yes, I really need that peace, and I really need someone to take away that burden.'"
Arriving in Cuba to continue her medical studies, she met Bui Huy Toan, another Vietnamese student and her future fiancé.
In 1992, Phúc and Toan married and went on their honeymoon in Moscow. During a refuelling stop in Gander, Newfoundland, they left the plane and asked for political asylum in Canada, which was granted. The couple now lives in Ajax, Ontario near Toronto, and have two children. In 1997 she established the first Kim Phúc Foundation in the U.S., with the aim of providing medical and psychological assistance to child victims of war. Later, other foundations were set up, with the same name, under an umbrella organization,
On November 10, 1994, Kim Phúc was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Her biography, The Girl in the Picture, was written by Denise Chong and published in 1999.
"With faith, with God's help, we can forgive," Kim says. "If you don't have peace, how can you share with people? We need to go out to share that peace, that joy with the world. No medication can take the place of that. I took medication, but when God healed me in my heart . . . wow!"