Should North Koreans get Samsung phones donated to Olympics?

The electronics giant is giving some 4,000 Galaxy Note 8 phones for athletes to shoot, selfie and post their experiences. But they've created a dilemma.

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
Gangneung hosting indoor events of 2018 Winter Olympic Games

Samsung's special-edition Note 8 for the Olympics.

Josh Miller/CNET

To give or not to give, that is Samsung's question.

The electronics giant has donated some 4,000 Galaxy Note 8 phones to help athletes and officials at the Olympics shoot, share and post their experiences during sporting event starting this week

But it's unclear whether giving these $1,000 phones to athletes from North Korea would violate UN sanctions rules, reports CBS News. (CBS News is owned by CBS, which also owns CNET.) Additionally, CBS says it's not sure whether the phones would work on networks inside North Korea after the games.

Organizers said late Wednesday that athletes from North Korea and Iran wouldn't receive the handsets due to UN sanctions against the two countries, Agence France Presse reported.

The Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea begin on Friday. North Korea made headlines by agreeing to send a delegation to participate in the quadrennial sporting event, which is being held in its southern neighbor.

The International Olympic Committee has advised the local host to collect the phones from North Korean athletes before they return home, CBS reports. 

Samsung didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Updated at 7:40 p.m. PT: with news organizers wouldn't allow athletes from Iran and North Korea to receive the handsets.

This Galaxy Note 8 is so exclusive, you can't even buy it

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