The South Korean government ordered Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors to recall 240,000 vehicles over safety defects reported by a whistle blower, according to a local media report.

Reuters said the move was the first compulsory recall ordered by the transport ministry for Hyundai and Kia, which had resisted an earlier request for a voluntary recall, and gave fresh credence to allegations made by Kim Gwang-ho, a Hyundai engineer with 26 years at the company.

The report said the ministry had also asked prosecutors in Seoul to investigate whether the automakers allegedly covered up the five flaws, which affect 12 models, including the Elantra, Sonata, Santa Fe and Genesis.

Hyundai and Kia, which had previously argued that the flaws presented no danger to driving safety, said in a joint statement cited by Reuters on Friday they would cede to the order. They added there had been no reports of injuries or accidents due to the problems which include defects in parking brake warning lights, and denied that there had been any cover-up.

Reuters said, in the first whistle blower case to hit South Korea's auto industry, Kim had made allegations about 32 problems to local regulators. The latest recalls covers five of those problems.

Kim reportedly also flew to the US last year to report safety lapses to authorities there and the automakers have since issued a voluntary recall for a combined 1.5m vehicles in North America and in South Korea over a defect that could cause engines to stall.

"What the whistle blower said turned out to be true," Samsung Securities auto analyst Eim Eun-young told Reuters.

"This is negative for Hyundai's brand image after the hit from the recall over engine issue last month. But then, its reputation is already seen at the rock bottom in South Korea, so I am not sure whether there is a room for a further fall."

Reuters noted Hyundai and Kia are the dominant brands in their home country with around two thirds of the market. but customer anger has grown due to the perception the South Korean automakers are not working swiftly to address quality concerns.

Hyundai's recall for the engine problem was made in South Korea only last month – one year after it recalled cars for the similar engine issue in the US, the report added.