All athletes at the Olympic Games were offered a free
Samsung smartphone, except delegates from Iran and North Korea
due to concerns about international sanctions.
In response, Iran told South
that if Samsung did not apologize
it could affect trade relations with the company.
Under mounting pressure, the IOC said it would provide
all athletes, including those from Iran and North Korea, with
As South Korea prepares for the Olympics, it has
continued faced numerous complications regarding
Iran summoned its South Korean ambassador on Thursday over news
that, unlike all other athletes, its Olympic delegation wouldn’t
be receiving a free Samsung smartphone, and reportedly called the
The Pyeongchang organizers announced
last week they would be offering “Olympic edition”
Samsung Galaxy Note8 smartphones to all competitors, except those
from North Korea and Iran.
Organizers said Wednesday the smartphone snub was due to
concerns of violating internationally imposed sanctions, which
ban providing luxury goods or products to sanctioned countries
that could potentially be used for military
The committee said in total, 22 North Koreans and four
Iranian athletes would not be provided the newest $1,100
In its subsequent meeting with its South Korean ambassador,
Iran said it strongly opposed the “unethical move that
opposed to the spirit of Olympic
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram
Qasemi said, according to Iranian news
Iran also told the ambassador that if Samsung did not
apologize for its “unwise” move it could affect trade relations
with the company, Qasemi said.
The head of Iran’s National Olympic Committee Reza
Salehi Amiri echoed the foreign ministry’s statements.
“We won’t keep silent in face of insults to our national
pride, identity and dignity,” Amiri
Soon after, Iran’s Foreign minister Mohammad Javad
Zarif escalated threats, reportedly giving an
ultimatum to Samsung that if they didn’t apologize and
overturn their decision, he would boycott all Samsung products,
including his own personal cell phone. Other ministers also
joined in on calls
for boycott, and threatened to discuss the matter in
The South Korean company reportedly sells products in Iran
and all nuclear-related sanctions were lifted on Iran
in January 2016 but many businesses and companies remain
Following the situation’s escalation, the
International Olympic Committee said it would provide the phones
to all athletes, including those from Iran and North Korea.
“Regarding Iran, we can confirm that all participants will be
able to keep the phones,”
an Olympic spokesman said. “Regarding North Korea, all
participants are requested not to take the phones back to their
home country,” they added.
South Korea has tried to avoid violating sanctions in its Olympic
As South Korea prepares for the Olympics, it has continued to hit
up against international sanctions.
On Friday, the UN reportedly cleared blacklisted North
Korean official Choe Hwi to visit the South for the Olympic
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jung, will
also head to the Olympic celebrations as part of the North’s
despite her blacklist status.
Earlier this week,
Seoul temporarily exempted sanctions on North Korean ships so
the country’s Olympic delegation could travel by ferry to the
South Korea has enforced travel
sanctions on North Korean ships since 2010 in response to the
of a South Korean warship, which North Korea denies its
Additionally, North Korea asked South
supply fuel to the ship,
which may violate
UN Security Council sanctions that limit exports of certain
goods, like crude oil, to the North.
South Korea also needs to ensure no US food ingredients are used
in meals for North Koreans in order to prevent the possible
violation of US sanctions, which completely bans the provision of
US goods and services to North Korea.
Some have suggested that the South should ease
its sanctions temporarily in order to facilitate the
North’s Olympic delegation and encourage inter-Korean