Fifteen crew members of the Sewol Ferry, which sank off the South Korean coast in April, arrived at the Gwangju District Court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.
The crew will enter pleas on charges that they were negligent and failed to save the more than 300 people who died or are missing from the disaster.
Lawyers also planned to submit evidence during the hearing.
Most of those killed in the April 16 sinking of the ferry were students from a single high school near Seoul who were travelling to the southern tourist island of Jeju.
There is widespread anger and frustration over what many see as an incompetent search and rescue effort.
Ferry captain Lee Joon-seok and three other crew members face homicide charges while less serious indictments have been issued against the 11 other crew members responsible for navigating the vessel.
Lee 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 15 crew members were among the first group of people rescued when the Sewol began badly listing, and all were arrested in April.
Almost two months after the sinking, 292 bodies have been retrieved and 12 others are listed as missing.
Only 172 people, including 22 of the ship's 29 crew members, survived.