By Yoo Seungki
SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Public opinion in South Korea shows signs of division as the scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye pushes for a bilateral military pact with Japan to directly exchange intelligence on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
A survey by Gallup Korea, a local pollster, showed 59 percent opposing it as they believe Seoul should refrain from strengthening military cooperation with Tokyo unrepentant of its brutalities during World War II. The Korean Peninsula was colonized by the Imperial Japan from 1910 to 1945.
In contrast, 31 percent responded positively to the deal on a foggy notion that more and more intelligence, even from the unrepentant Japan, would help defend their country better from "growing nuclear and missile threats" from Pyongyang.
Public fury here over the former colonial ruler is deeply rooted as seen in the opposition from almost two-thirds of respondents. Former President Lee Myung-bak pushed the hush-hush deal with Japan in 2012, but it was scrapped at the last minutes on public outcry.
South Koreans are regularly enraged at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who has paid respect, or made ritual offerings, to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine during spring and autumn festivals. Seoul and Tokyo regularly lock horns over a set of rocky islets, which the former retrieved from the latter after its liberation from the 36-year colonization.
President Park was here criticized for a "final and irreversible" agreement late last year with Japan on "comfort women," or women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops before and during the Pacific War. Abe hasn't admitted to a forceful recruitment of the Korean victims.
According to the pollster's weekly survey, Park's approval rating stayed at 5 percent for three weeks in a row, the lowest for any South Korean president. Support for Park among those under 50 hovered below 5 percent.
Opposition parties have demanded Park distance herself from all state affairs and step down, but the presidential Blue House said she will sustain diplomatic and defense authorities.
The South Korea-pushed pact with Japan to share military intelligence on the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs would serve the U.S. pivot-to-Asia strategy by integrating military intelligence programs among the three countries.
Seoul's attempt to deploy a U.S. missile shield, dubbed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), in southeast South Korea may speed up in the name of defending the country from the DPRK's nuclear and missile threats.
The South Korean defense ministry said Wednesday that it agreed with the owner of the golf course, a newly designated site for the U.S. missile defense battery, to exchange its unused land for the site. Commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said earlier this month that the THAAD battery could be installed as early as July next year.
South Korea and the United States agreed in July to install one THAAD battery in Seongju county in north Gyeongsang province, Park and her ruling party's traditional home turf, by the end of next year. It caused strong oppositions from local residents.
Pyongyang conducted its fifth nuclear test in September, just eight months after detonating its fourth atomic device. The January nuclear test was followed by the launch in February of a long-range rocket.
The procedures necessary for the South Korea-Japan military intelligence accord is hurriedly being carried out. Seoul and Tokyo resumed talks on the deal earlier this month and initialed the pact in Tokyo on Monday.
It was passed in South Korean vice ministers' meeting on Thursday, and the South Korean government is scheduled to approve it at a cabinet meeting next Tuesday. The presidential ratification will be left for a final agreement.
Three main opposition parties opposed the hurried, unilateral push, saying they will propose the impeachment of Defense Minister Han Min-koo. But, the oppositions are not expected to stop it.