South Korean civic groups organized a mass candlelight rally Saturday in Seoul to protest Japan's decision to remove South Korea from its list of approved export destinations.

Thousands of people gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy, chanting phrases denouncing the decision by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet on Friday.

They also demanded that Japan apologize for the wartime forced labor of thousands of Koreans and for its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Police said around 2,500 people attended the rally, which was the third of its kind in recent days. As the previous ones attracted only several hundred people, the removal of South Korea from Japan's "white list" appears to have spurred many more to attend.

Lee Jun Soo, a 42-year-old self-employed man, said that rather than apologizing for Japan's past wrongdoings, the Abe government is "economically attacking" the country.

One of the speakers at the rally called on the government to end a bilateral accord on sharing military intelligence with Japan that is coming up for renewal.

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"South Korea and Japan have become enemies. How can we pass military information to the enemy?" he said.

An official from South Korea's presidential office said Friday that the government will consider "all options" regarding the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA.

Japanese Cabinet members on Friday approved plans to revoke, from Aug. 28, South Korea's preferential status as a trade partner for the purchase of products that could be diverted for military use, citing security reasons.

South Korea reacted sharply to the decision as it views the measure as being in retaliation to a series of court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate groups of South Koreans over wartime forced labor. Later Friday, Seoul said it would do the same to Tokyo.

The civic groups are planning to hold another rally on Aug. 10 and Aug. 15, the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan's colonial rule.