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S. Korean Ferry Captain Apologizes for Abandoning Ship

FILE - South Koreans shout slogans during a rally demanding the adoption of a special law for the sunken ferry Sewol in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014.

The captain of the South Korean ferry that capsized in April, killing over 300 people, has apologized for abandoning the ship and not rescuing passengers.

Captain Lee Joon-seok is among four crew members who are standing trial for negligent homicide and who face a possible death penalty if convicted.

Eleven other crew members face lesser charges for also fleeing the ship, while allegedly telling the passengers to stay in their cabins and wait to be rescued.

South Korean media say the 68-year-old captain told the court Wednesday he is sorry for his "grave sin," saying he realizes he deserves the death penalty.

Lee said he never intended to kill the passengers, most of whom were high school students headed for an outing on a resort island.

The captain insists he issued an order for the students to evacuate the vessel. It appears that if such an order was given, it was never relayed to the passengers.

The sinking of the Sewol ferry has prompted mass public outrage at the crew, as well as the government for lax safety standards and failed rescue efforts.

The court is expected to issue a ruling in November.