SEOUL, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Civic group activists in South Korea held a protest rally on Wednesday against the signing of a military intelligence pact with Japan in front of Seoul's defense ministry headquarters.
South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo and Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine on Wednesday held a signing ceremony for the accord, dubbed General Security of the Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), in the headquarters.
Scores of protesters held a press conference, holding high a variety of placards and posters reading "Stop GSOMIA," "Stop treacherous accord" and "Park Geun-hye, immediately step down without doing anything."
One grey-haired man was holding a poster that describes Minister Han as traitor. Some posters read "Arrest the criminal suspect" to refer to President Park Geun-hye, and others asked not to forget the colonial history.
President Park is grappling with a scandal involving her longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil who has been indicted for abuse of power and extortion. Park was identified as an accomplice to Choi, becoming the country's first sitting president to be investigated as a suspect.
The signing came less than a month after Seoul and Tokyo resumed talks earlier this month about the deal to directly exchange military intelligence on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear and missile programs.
Observers say President Park had hurriedly pushed the pact as part of efforts to find a breakthrough by regaining support from conservative voters sensitive to security issues.
According to a Gallup Korea poll released last week, almost two-thirds of respondents objected to the military accord with Japan unrepentant of its past brutalities during the 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
About 30 percent still responded positively to the pact as they obscurely believe that more military information would help defend South Korea from the DPRK's nuclear and missile threats.
The demonstrators in front of the defense ministry headquarters said the South Korea-Japan military pact will support Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ambition to exercise a right to collective self-defense given that Abe moved to rearm his country in recent years.
They said it is a very serious problem for South Korea to strengthen military cooperation with Japan, which has denied its history of aggression, stressing that South Korea was one of the biggest victims from the militaristic Japan.
The participants in the protest are affiliated with diverse advocacy groups to block the deployment of a U.S. missile shield in South Korea, to force President Park to resign, to oppose the bilateral military pact with Japan and to nullify an agreement between Seoul and Tokyo on "comfort women."
South Korea and Japan reached a "final and irreversible" agreement in December last year on comfort women, or Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops before and during the Pacific War. South Korean victims have opposed the agreement.
The advocacy groups said the signing of the military pact and the July decision to install one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in southeast South Korea are aimed at expanding the U.S. missile defense strategy to the South Korean territory.
It will obviously escalate military tensions and arms race in Northeast Asia, giving birth to a new Cold War in the region, they worried.
Seoul and Washington agreed in July to deploy the THAAD in South Korea by the end of next year. U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) commander has recently expected the deployment to be made possible as early as July next year.