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SEOUL — A South Korean man for whom a nationwide manhunt was launched in December was sentenced to death in a court-martial Thursday for killing a South Korean marine and stealing his rifle and ammunition, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

Cho Young-guk, 35, stabbed one marine to death and critically wounded another on Gwangha Island on Dec. 6. He fled after stealing a rifle, a grenade and ammunition from the pair.

“What use is this? My son is dead,” the father of the dead marine, Park Sang-cheol, said as he left the courtroom, according to Yonhap News.

The Korean constitution allows the military to court-martial a civilian in certain cases. Should the execution be carried out, Cho would become the first South Korean to be executed since 1997.

Officials initially believed someone planned to use the weapons in an assassination attempt against candidates in South Korea’s presidential election. Cars entering Seoul were searched for the missing weapons at military checkpoints.

Court officials said Cho attacked the marines to take revenge on his former girlfriend of 10 years, who refused to reconcile with him. Cho wanted the woman to suffer by seeing his self-destructive behavior, marine investigators have said.

Cho’s defense attorneys said his client suffered from mental illness and had previously attempted suicide three times, according to Yonhap.

A military judge dismissed that defense, and said Cho had inspected the crime scene two weeks before the attack, according to Yonhap.

Cho can appeal his sentence until April 14, a Ministry National Defense spokesman said.

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