Culture

North Korea’s Winter Olympians denied their Samsung goody bags

By Oliver Smith 8 February 2018
Image: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images.
Summary

A frosty reception.

The 2018 Winter Olympics are already a delicate affair, hosted in South Korea’s Pyeongchang, just 50 miles from the demilitarized zone with North Korea.

Tensions are already running high, as North Korea uses the international spectacle to show off its military power.

However, there’s another diplomatic crisis which could raise temperatures in the -12°C winds of Pyeongchang – North Korean athletes are being denied their special Samsung “Olympic edition” Galaxy Note 8 smartphone souvenirs.

Lacking in Olympic spirit

North Korea’s goody bags are being taken away – not just because Kim Jong-un doesn’t want his athletes browsing the open internet, although this is why North Korea has confiscated Samsung’s freebies from athletes in the past.

The freebies are being binned because new UN sanctions prohibit Samsung from ‘trading in luxury goods’ with the country.

An Olympic committee spokeswoman told AFP: “North Korean… athletes will be excluded because of existing UN sanctions”.

That said, this is mostly a moot point, given the 22 North Korean athletes are being watched 24/7 by minders who’ll stop them from so much as picking up a telephone without knowing who’s on the other end.

Missing out

It’s not only North Korean athletes missing out because of the new sanctions, Iranian athletes won’t be given the glitzy freebies either due to similar rules imposed on the country.

That’s a shame because it means the athletes won’t be able to catch any coverage of the winter games on Snapchat, which remains the best way to follow the Olympics.

South Korea might see the Winter Games as an opportunity to thaw relations with its Northern cousins – but publicly denying athletes their goody bags isn’t a great way to start.