Prosecutors indicted the captain of the sunken South Korean ferry and three crew members on homicide charges Thursday, alleging they were negligent and failed to protect more than 300 people missing or dead in the disaster. Less serious indictments were issued against the 11 other crew members responsible for navigating the vessel.
Capt. Lee Joon-seok and the other homicide defendants -- a first mate, a second mate and the chief engineer -- could face the death penalty if convicted, according to the Supreme Court, though no one has been executed in South Korea since 1997.
The 11 others were indicted for alleged negligence and abandoning passengers in need when the ship sank on April 16, according to prosecutors. All 15 defendants are expected to be tried together.
About one month after the sinking, 284 bodies have been retrieved and 20 others are listed as missing. Only 172 people, including 22 of the ship's 29 crew members, survived. Most of the victims were students from a single high school near Seoul who were travelling to the southern tourist island of Jeju.