Iranian and North Korean athletes at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games will receive Samsung mobile phones, organizers said on Thursday, after Iran summoned South Korea’s ambassador over reports its athletes would not get the gifts.
News reports said 4,000 of the latest $1,100 Samsung smartphones were being given to athletes attending the Winter Games, but athletes from Iran and North Korea would be excluded because of sanctions against the two countries.
Responding to the furor, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said athletes from both countries would receive the phones but that the North Koreans would be asked not to take the devices home.
“The IOC will provide mobile phones to all athletes of all countries participating at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018.
These phones contain essential logistical and competition information for the athletes,” an IOC spokesperson said.
“Regarding Iran, we can confirm that all participants will be able to keep the phones. Regarding North Korea, all participants are requested not to take the phones back to their home country,” the spokesperson added.
An Olympics organizer told Reuters last week that South Korea was unsure if North Korean athletes would be eligible to receive the phones because of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The official declined to elaborate, but experts say the phone could violate a U.N. ban on the sale of luxury items and electronics with a potential “dual” commercial and military use.
Iran summoned South Korea’s ambassador to Tehran to the Foreign Ministry, to explain the phone snub.
“If Samsung does not apologize for its unwise action, this will greatly affect Samsung’s trade relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran”, the state news agency IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying.
A spokesman for Seoul’s foreign ministry spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
– Reuters (Dubai newsroom), 8 February 2018