SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of— Here is an Olympian question that Pyeongchang Winter Olympics organizer is wrestling with: to give or not to give the Samsung Galaxy phone to the 22 North Korean athletes.
Olympic Partner Samsung Electronics has donated some 4,000 Galaxy Note 8 phones for athletes and officials at the International Olympic Committee so that they can document every moment and share their memories with the world.
But the Winter Olympic Games organizer is in limbo whether giving the device that costs at least $1,000 to North Koreans would violate global sanctions designed to punish their government’s nuclear ambitions.
The Galaxy Note 8 Olympic Games phone distributed to athletes is a limited edition not for sale, but Samsung’s Note series are some of the most expensive available in the market. The United Nations sanctions ban supplying or transferring luxury items to North Korea or to North Korean nationals.
The International Olympic Committee has advised the organizer that North Korean athletes can use the phone during the Olympics that open Friday but must return them before their departure.
Even after the IOC’s response, the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee is still unsure what to do.
“Somebody should make a clear call but there is no one who can,” said Sung Baik-yoo, the committee’s spokesman. “So we have not given the phone (to North Koreans) and we cannot give the phone until we confirm this is not a violation of the U.N. sanctions.”
The committee should also take into consideration that all athletes are to be treated equally regardless of their nationality, Sung said.