Iranian athletes allowed to take home Samsung's free smartphones

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-02-09 13:17 Updated : 2018-02-13 15:52
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[Courtesy of Samsung Electronics]

SEOUL, Feb. 09 (Aju News) -- Samsung Electronics avoided an inadvertent backlash in an important Middle East market Friday after Winter Olympic organizers allowed four Iranian athletes to get free Galaxy Note 8 smartphones.

As an official sponsor of the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Samsung has delivered the limited edition of its latest smartphone Galaxy Note 8 featuring Pyeongchang-themed wallpapers and related apps to athletes and officials free of charge.

But Iranian and North Korean athletes were exempted from Samsung's giveaways under United Nations sanctions banning luxury goods or electronic devices that can potentially be used for military purposes. They should use Samsung phones only during their stay in South Korea.

The move shocked many Iranian people who threatened to boycott Samsung products, and Iran's foreign ministry on Thursday summoned South Korea's ambassador to Tehran to lodge a protest. Samsung was a major player in the Iranian smartphone market.

On approval from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), organizers agreed Friday to provide Samsung smartphones to Iranian athletes without the condition of handing them back.

From the beginning, North Korea has refused to get Samsung phones. Samsung's premium smartphones are not usable anyway in one of the world's most isolated countries because of tight internal guidelines banning the distribution of South Korean brands.

North Korean leaders fearing an inflow of undesirable and decadent foreign culture and news have maintained tight regulations on internet and mobile phone use, and mobile internet access for foreigners with limited speed or traffic amount is available at a comparably high price.