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[SEJONG] South Korea on Thursday said its own testing showed that Volkswagen AG intentionally manipulated a diesel emissions device in vehicles with an older engine, and ordered the recall of 125,522 cars.
South Korea is the first country after the United States to announce measures based on its own testing to address the diesel emissions scandal that has engulfed Europe's biggest auto manufacturer.
In September, Volkswagen admitted that it installed software in up to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide that vastly understated their actual emissions of smog-causing nitrogen oxides.
South Korea's environment ministry said it ordered Volkswagen Korea to submit a recall plan by Jan 6, 2016, and also fined the unit 14.1 billion won (S$17.3 million).
Cars to be recalled are Euro 5 engine vehicles with 2,000cc and 1,600cc diesel "EA189" engines, mainly sold in South Korea between 2008 and 2015 including the popular Tiguan model, the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said it had not yet determined whether VW vehicles with the newer "EA288" engine - mainly Euro 6 models - had manipulated emissions, and could announce results after it completes testing the diesel models of 16 automakers by April.
A Volkswagen Korea spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.
Sales of diesel-powered German imports have been gaining share in recent years in a South Korean market long dominated by home-grown players led by Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors.
However, the market share of imported vehicles fell from 15.7 per cent in September to 12.34 per cent in October, the lowest percentage since July 2013.
Volkwagen sales fell from 2,901 registered vehicles in September to just 947 in October, according to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association, a trade group.
Among imported brands, Volkswagen's share fell from 14.2 per cent in September to 5.4 per cent in October.