DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has summoned South Korea’s ambassador over media reports that Iranians at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games would not receive the latest Samsung mobile phone given as a gift to most other athletes.
The 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.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi, quoted by the state news agency IRNA on Thursday, said the South Korean envoy was told that “if Samsung does not apologize for its unwise action, this will greatly affect Samsung’s trade relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
Samsung said it had no comment on the report as the International Olympics Committee (IOC) was responsible for distributing gifts at the Olympics.
The IOC declined to comment. Pyeongchang Winter Olympics organizers also said the responsibility for handing out the phones lay with the IOC.
Tough international sanctions including travel restrictions and a ban on the sale of luxury goods and sports gear have complicated South Korean Olympic organizers’ efforts to provide their northern neighbors with the same benefits available to other Olympians.
However, it was not immediately clear why Iranian athletes would be banned from receiving the Samsung phone, as its products are widely available for sale in Iran, which has good diplomatic and trade relations with South Korea. Almost 18 million Iranians have Samsung phones, according to Iran’s largest app market, Café Bazaar.
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.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Jon Boyle