The games have hardly begun and North Korea’s presence at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics is already forcing South Korea to … potentially violate international sanctions?
According to a report from the New York Times, the South Koreans have had to grant an exception to their ban on North Korean ships in their waters after North Korea unexpectedly sent its group of athletes by ferry rather than land.
A similar issue is also arising involving products donated to the athletes by Olympic sponsors. Per the NYT report, Samsung donated 4,000 Galaxy Note 8 phones for athletes and officials at the Games, which introduced the dilemma of whether that violates the United Nations ban on exporting luxury goods to North Korea, as well as Iran, which is under similar restrictions.
Bloomberg reporter Golnar Motevalli reported on Thursday morning that while the Iranians will now be gifted the Samsung smartphones, the North Koreans will not:
— Golnar Motevalli (@golnarM) February 8, 2018
It’s still unclear whether North Korea’s exclusion was a decision by Samsung or a result of their home country’s severe restrictions on internet access.
That same luxury goods ban also specifically applies to “recreational sports equipment”, which means the International Ice Hockey Federation will have to lend new Finnish sticks to the North Korean athletes on the combined women’s hockey team with South Korea. They sticks will have to be returned after the Games.
Those are just a few of the exceptions and/or workarounds that the South Koreans and the Olympic community at large have had to make in order to accommodate the 22 North Korean athletes participating in the Games. And it’s understandably being perceived partly as a way for the heavily sanctioned nation to not only undermine the South’s relationship with the United States, but also test the limits of the United Nations.
It’s worth noting that during a visit to Japan on Wednesday, just two days before opening ceremonies, Vice President Mike Pence announced the administration’s plans to put even stricter sanctions in place:
Earlier today in Japan I announced the U.S will soon unveil the TOUGHEST & most AGGRESSIVE round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever & we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear & ballistic missile program. #VPinASIA pic.twitter.com/PKNvycPpMh
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 7, 2018
Bloomberg business reporter Sam Kim pointed to North Korea’s inclusion of Kim Jong Un’s sister in the nation’s Olympic delegation for the opening ceremonies as further proof of the nation’s instigation tactics.