A South Korean court has issued the first warrant for the arrest of a Volkswagen executive in connection with its cheating on vehicle emissions tests.

Reuters noted the warrant was the first to apply to a Volkswagen executive anywhere in the world after the firm in September admitted to using software to falsify pollution tests on some diesel cars, spurring legal action in the United States, Germany, South Korea and elsewhere.

"This is just the beginning of the investigation," an anonymous official at the prosecution office told the news agency.

The executive, identified by his last name Yun, faced five accusations including fabrication of documents and violation of the Air Quality Preservation Law, Seoul Central District Court spokesman Shin Jae-hwan said.

"The court acknowledges the reason and the necessity of the arrest," he told Reuters, declining to give further details or name the executive.

A Volkswagen Korea spokeswoman declined to comment.

Reuters noted South Korea had taken a particularly hard line against the automaker, filing a criminal complaint against two other executives, fining it KRW14.1bn (US$11.97m) and ordering it to recall 125,522 vehicles.

About 4,400 Korean consumers also have filed a class action lawsuit against Volkswagen and Audi demanding compensation over the false emissions claims.

Sources in the United States on Thursday told Reuters Volkswagen would pay over US$10bn to settle claims by nearly 500,000 owners and fund efforts to offset pollution.

German prosecutors said earlier they were investigating former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and another executive over whether they effectively manipulated markets by delaying the release of information about the test cheating.

South Korean prosecutors would cooperate with their counterparts in Germany and the United States, the official told Reuters in Seoul.