Phan Thi Kim Phuc - From a symbol of war to a symbol of peace

by Jennifer Yoshikoshi from Goleta, California in United States

151523Phan Thi Kim Phuc, founder of The KIM Foundation InternationalMY HERO project

At just nine years old Phan Thi Kim Phuc was pictured within the famous photo, The Terror of War, in a snapshot of Vietnamese children fleeing from a napalm attack. The photo that was taken in 1972 captured the vulnerable moment where Kim Phuc ran naked in the streets after her clothes and body were burned by chemical flames. She was named “Napalm Girl” and carried the stories and pain of the Vietnam War through her lasting scars across her body.

151492Kim Phuc pictured in "The Terror of War" taken by photographer Nick Ut in 1972 this tragedy, Kim Phuc endured years of treatment to heal the scars that cover her entire back and arms. Not only did she carry physical pain, but she was also consumed by suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression. Although she became an international symbol that brought light to the horrors of war, she felt she embodied and immortalized this negative scene. 

Napalm Girl was used as propaganda by Vietnam but Kim Phuc strived to use her presence as a force to drive a positive impact in a world of war. Now at 60 years old, she has moved on from her former title as “Napalm Girl” and is now recognized as the founder of The KIM Foundation International, an organization that provides hope for children in need. She wanted the girl in the photo to no longer eternalize pain, but to instead illuminate hope. 

In an interview with PBS, she said, “Now I’m working not because of my duty, not because of my mission, but because of my love.” 

She spent her entire life sharing her story with the entire world and in 2017 she published her autobiography, Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey Through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace. Kim Phuc uses her life story to be a message of peace as she continues to help refugees across the world. In the summer of 2022, she helped 236 refugees from Ukraine flee the Russian war and find refuge in Canada. 

Through her life’s work, Kim Phuc has received numerous awards for supporting child victims of war. In 2004 she received an honorary Doctorate of Law from York University and in addition to her role as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, she was also awarded the Dresden Peace Prize in 2019.  Kim Phuc 

Kim Phuc was able to turn her story around. She worked to transform a negative perspective into a hopeful one. She currently lives in Canada with her husband and two children, to whom she dedicates her work. As she started her own family, she wanted to create a difference in the world where her children would be free from the suffering she endured. “Instead of seeing it as a curse, I began to see it as a blessing. It became a powerful gift for me to work for peace,” said Phuc in her 2023 TED Talk in Vienna. 


Page created on 4/17/2023 6:01:38 AM

Last edited 4/3/2024 10:25:04 AM

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Related Links

1972 ‘Napalm Girl’ escorts Ukraine refugees to Canada - Article about Kim Phuc's efforts in helping Ukraine refugees
Choosing Forgiveness | Kim Phúc Phan Thị | TEDxVienna - Kim Phuc's TEDxVienna talk
KIM Foundation - Information about Kim Phuc's organization


Woodruff, Judy. KIM PHUC PHAN THI VIETNAM WAR SURVIVOR. [Online] Available

Kim Phuc, Phan Thi. Choosing Forgiveness- Kim Phúc Phan Thị - TEDxVienna. [Online] Available