Samsung has long been a sponsor of the Olympics. The South Korean company is again having an iconic moment as the Winter Games in Pyeongchang approach. They are rolling out new devices made exclusively for coaches and athletes.
1997 marked Samsung’s first year of providing cellphones to Olympians. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro saw the unveiling of a special edition of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. The limited edition device featured the Olympic symbol of interlocking rings on the back case. The official colors of yellow, red, green, and blue were also used across the phone’s keyboard and near its camera. For this year’s Olympics, it appears that Samsung is going a bit more minimalist, with a simple black and white design.
However, there are two countries that won’t be able to join in on the electronic festivities. Athletes from Iran and the so-called “Hermit Kingdom” of North Korea cannot accept the devices due to sanctions from the United Nations.
The limited edition phones will likely be worth well over the Note 8’s standard asking price of about 1 million won (or $920). This means they are considered a “luxury good,” which the United Nations has banned in North Korea. Because of the phone’s advanced technology, they can also be classified as a “dual use” good that could also be employed by the military. (The United Nations has imposed strict military sanctions on both Iran and North Korea.)
The North Korean Olympic Committee decided against giving their athletes the phones in 2016. The phones have an embedded GPS function, which is banned by North Korean law. North Korea also prevents its citizens from having unrestricted access to the Internet. Their government may have also been reluctant to accept any devices from a South Korean company, given the two countries’ turbulent history.