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Ex-Gov. Sohn Bolts from GNP for His Own Path
Former Gov. Sohn Hak-Kyu of Gyeonggi Province. Sohn is always rated No. 1 among the presidential hopefuls in polls of intellectuals.

Former Gov. Sohn Hak-Kyu of Gyeonggi Province bolted from the conservative Grand National Party (GNP) with just nine months ahead of the 17th presidential election. Sohn is found out to be the most popular presidential candidate among the educated Koreans including journalists in polls.

With the defection of ex-Gov. Sohn from GNP, the political spectrum of the already conservative GNP will be even more conservative, for Sohn is the leader of the "relatively liberal" or reformist factions of the largest opposition party.

Sohn is expected to form a new party with the support of the reformist middle-of-the-road forces in the nation.

With his defection, the ruling Uri Party can expect three-way presidential race split into three forces of the conservative GNP, the middle of the roaders led by Sohn, and liberal forces led by pro-Roh Moo-Hyun forces, and the socialist Democratic Labor Party.

Political analysts say that there is no chance that Sohn will join a certain faction of the ruling camp.

In a press conference held at the Kim Koo Museum and Library in Hyochang-dong, Seoul, on March 19, 2007 Sohn said "I decided to leave GNP to create a new path for the nation."

Kim Koo is one of the most famous independence fighters, who served as president of the interim Korean government in exile in Shanghai during Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Kim Koo is the symbolic figure who Korean people respect the most amongst independence fighters.

In his speech Sohn blamed both the conservative GNP and liberal Uri Party for "being hackneyed old-liners and crippled leftists" respectively.

He expressed his wish to join hands with civic groups to form new political forces.

Earlier on March 15, 2007 in a political gathering held at Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry building in Seoul, Sohn said "It is absolutely necessary for the new political order to emerge at this time of the era" in his congratulatory speech.

In the meeting a third political force named as "Advance Korea" was officially launched. The force was composed of personalities who fought against dictatorship of 1980s, experts of various sectors of society, and cultural figures.

Other independent political groups are gearing up for joining Sohn's force and among them are a group of liberal-minded college professors.

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