ferry
304 people died after the ferry sank in AprilGetty

Families of the crew members on board the doomed South Korea ferry which claimed more than 300 lives have said the anger felt towards them has left them feeling suicidal.

All surviving crew members, including its captain, on the Sewol passenger ferry were convicted of negligence after it was revealed they told passengers to remain in their cabins while the boat started to sink so they could be among the first people to be saved.

A total of 304 people, a majority of which were secondary school students on a field trip from the Danwon High School in Ansan City near Seoul, died as a result of the tragedy.

As the crew members launch appeals to have their sentences reduced, which ranged from five years to 36 years for captain Lee Joon-seok, some family members have spoken about the guilt they have felt since the accident in a country where shame is profoundly affected by family association.

Im Young-ae, whose husband is serving a five-year jail term for negligence over the ferry's sinking, said she now lives in virtual isolation with her daughter because of the animosity felt towards them.

"People look at us so wickedly," she told Reuters from her home on Jindo island, not far from where the ferry capsized.

"I don't want anyone to recognise me. I avoid people as much as I can.

"Not just one or two but too many kids died ... It hurts me more because my husband is alive. Because he is alive, we feel sorry and thankful," she said.

Im added the trauma has left her suffering from depression, insomnia and weight loss.

She spoke on condition that her husband not be identified over fears it could ignite hatred directed at him which could affect his appeal.

A legal source, who also wished to remain anonymous, revealed how the incarcerated cabin crew members are held in solitary confinement over concerns other inmates might try to harm them.

Im's daughter, 31, said she had also contemplated suicide in the months following the accident, but changed her mind after thinking about how it would affect her father.

"Dad is sorry that we have to go through this because of him," she said.

"In his letters he calls himself 'ugly dad', 'stupid dad'."

She added her brother, who remains in Seoul, no longer sees his friends after reading negative and hostile comments about his father and the other cabin crew online.

However, Kwon Oh-bok, whose brother and nephew are still missing at sea since the ferry sank, said the family should not feel guilty.

"It shouldn't be a case of guilt by association. The families of the crew can't be blamed," he said.