Iran has summoned South Korea’s envoy after its athletes at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics were not included in a giveaway of Samsung smartphones, apparently because of concerns over sanctions.
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, waded into the row on Thursday, giving an ultimatum to Samsung that unless the decision was overturned immediately, he would give up using his personal Samsung.
The South Korean company has a huge business presence in Iran but event organisers appeared to have blocked Iranian and North Korean athletes from its giveaway of 4,000 of its newest $1,100 (£785) handset, Iranian media said, reportedly because of fears over breaking US sanctions.
All nuclear-related sanctions were lifted on Iran in January 2016, but many businesses, including major banks, still err on the side of caution due to existing sanctions relating to terrorism and human rights and the fear of sanctions returning.
Iran made clear its objection to the South Korean ambassador, with the envoy being told that the move was “unethical” and violated “the spirit of the Olympic Games”, Iran’s Irna state news agency reported, quoting the foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi.
Zarif, an active Twitter user on his Samsung, is relatively popular in Iran, mainly thanks to his role in securing the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
The head of Iran’s national Olympic committee, Reza Salehi Amiri, said: “We won’t keep silent in face of insults to our national pride, identity and dignity.”
Following Iran’s objection, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which had initially declined to comment, said athletes from Iran and North Korea would also receive the handsets, but asked those from the latter country not to take them back to their country. It was not clear if the IOC had to make a U-turn under pressure.
“The IOC will provide mobile phones to all athletes of all countries participating at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018,” a spokesperson said. “Regarding Iran, we can confirm that all participants will be able to keep the phones. Regarding North Korea, all participants are requested not to take the phones back to their home country.”
Samsung has not commented on the matter.
Source » theguardia