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SEOUL — One South Korean marine was killed and another injured during an incident Thursday that began when they were struck by a civilian jeep.

After striking the marines, the driver then fatally stabbed one of them and stole their weaponry, according to a Defense Ministry official.

Pfc. Park Young-chul died at Ganghwa Hospital from stab wounds his attacker inflicted after hitting him with the vehicle. Sgt. Lee Jae-hyuck was seriously injured.

The ministry responded by issuing its highest level of alert, generally declared after spies have infiltrated the country, the official said.

The incident occurred about 6 p.m. on Ganghwa Island near the coastal city of Incheon as the marines were walking back to their 2nd Marine Division base after guard duty.

The unknown attacker stole one marine’s K-2 assault rifle, 75 rounds of ammunition, a hand grenade and six rounds for a K-201 grenade launcher, officials said.

The K-2, made by Daewoo, is the standard weapon issued to members of the South Korean military. Like the U.S. military’s M-16, the K-2 fires a 5.56 mm round and uses the same type of magazine.

Officials refused to speculate on motives for the attack and theft, pending a complete investigation. In similar incidents in the past, stolen weapons have been used in later crimes.

Vehicles were being stopped Friday at checkpoints on highways in Gyeonggi province leading to Seoul for searches and questioning.

On highways from Dongducheon to Uijeongbu to Seoul, checkpoints manned by South Korean soldiers slowed traffic.

A witness told investigators the attacker looked like a man in his 30s and that the jeep was either white or gray, according to an article in Joong Ang Daily. The witness remembered the vehicle license plate bearing the numbers 9118 or 9181.

According to The Associated Press, the ministry said the suspect’s vehicle was found late Thursday gutted by fire at a farm in Hwaseong, south of Seoul.

U.S. Forces Korea spokesman David Oten said Friday the command had not changed its force-protection status.

He said USFK members who are stopped at a checkpoint “should comply with any instructions from Korean civil authorities.”

USFK had not been asked to help in the investigation as of Friday.

SEOUL — The theft of weapons during the Thursday attack on two South Korean marines near Incheon was not the first time armaments have been stolen — or attempts were made — from the country’s military.

A spokesman from South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said such thefts have happened at least three times since 2005:

November 2007, Jeju Island — Two drunken local men were caught by Korean National Police as they were trying to steal the rifles from a police officer at a guard post.

December 2005, Gangwon Province — Two K-2 rifles, six hand grenades and 700 rounds of live ammunition were stolen from a South Korean army base. Twenty days later, two army veterans were caught by the military investigators and Korean National Police.

July 2005, Gangwon Province — Three former special forces soldiers stabbed a South Korean army lieutenant while he was on patrol along the country’s east coast. They stole one K-1 rifle, a carbine version of the K-2 assault rifle; one K-2 rifle; and two magazines containing a total of 15 rounds. Korean National Police and military investigators caught them 15 days later.

June 2005, Donghae — In this fourth incident, which was not cited by the spokesman but was reported in Stars and Stripes, three men mugged two South Korean soldiers and put them into the trunk of a car after taking their weapons. Police found the weapons and arrested the muggers about a month later.

— Hwang Hae-rym

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