Samsung is offering a special version of the Galaxy Note 8 to Winter Olympics athletes and staff, but those from North Korea and Iran can’t accept it. The South Korean device maker has been sponsoring the Olympics for a long time, and it’s been offering free cell phones to Olympians since 1997. This year, the company made the Galaxy Note 8 PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games Limited Edition to celebrate the Winter Olympics. The unique model comes with identical specs as the regular version of the smartphone, but its design has been tweaked for the special occasion, boasting a white glass back and gold-colored Olympic Rings on its back, inspired by the Olympic Torch.
Samsung recently announced that it plans to offer 4,000 such units for free to athletes and their teams participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and this special edition will not be available for retail. While all Olympians should normally be able to receive it, United Nations sanctions prevent athletes from Iran and North Korea from accepting the gift. The standard version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 retails for roughly 1,000,000 South Korean won, i.e. about $920, and the price alone could make it seem like a luxury good. U.N. sanctions on North Korea ban the supply of luxury goods, so North Korean athletes will not be getting the special Winter Olympics version of the phablet even though it’s a gift.
This Galaxy Note 8 version could not only be considered a luxury good due to the high price point at which it normally retails, but would also violate certain laws in North Korea which ban GPS-equipped devices with unrestricted internet access. North Korea also has extremely tense relations with Samsung's home country, as has been the case since the Korean War in the mid-20th century which never officially ended. The situation is not unprecedented as back in 2016, Samsung made a special edition of the Galaxy S7 Edge to celebrate the Rio Summer Olympic Games, similarly planning to offer such a handset to every Olympian and their traveling staff. North Korea confiscated the free Olympic-themed smartphones, so none of its athletes received the complimentary gift from Samsung.