The trial of 15 crew members, including the captain, of a South Korean ferry that sank in April killing more than 300 people has begun.

The crew face charges ranging from negligence to murder.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 68, and three senior crew members have been charged with homicide, and could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Two others are charged with fleeing and abandoning ship, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Nine were charged with negligence, which can carry jail terms.

About 250 students from the same high school in Ansan city just south of Seoul died in the disaster.

The crew were caught on video abandoning ship, the captain in his underwear, while the schoolchildren, obeying orders, waited in their cabins for further instructions.

The Sewol, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn, sank off the southwest coast on 16 April on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to the southern holiday island of Jeju.

Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers from the same school on the outskirts of Seoul.

Only 172 people were rescued and the remainder are all presumed to have drowned.

Student survivors are to testify by closed circuit TV from a courtroom in their home town.

The court in Gwangju, 265km south of Seoul, said the decision had been made to spare the students any further stress.

About 50 witnesses are expected to give evidence and the court said the students' testimony would be given during a special closed-door session at a court in Ansan.

Most of the 75 students who survived the disaster were set to return to normal classes at Dawon High School tomorrow.

It was not clear how many had chosen to testify in the trial.

Another body recovered from sunken ferry

Dive teams today recovered another victim of the ferry disaster, the first to be retrieved from the sunken vessel in 16 days in an increasingly frustrating search for the last bodies.

The body was of a female passenger, and brings the total number of confirmed victims from the disaster to 293, with 11 still unaccounted for.

The recovery operation has dragged on for more than two months, with the body retrieval rate falling off rapidly since the beginning of June.

Two divers have been killed in the process and there are calls for heavy cranes to be brought in to lift the sunken vessel.

Relatives of those still missing insist all the bodies must be recovered first, despite indications that some may have been carried away by the strong currents in the area.

The previous body found on 5 June was spotted kilometres away from the accident site by a local fisherman.