On Friday, whilst other Olympic athletes were given free complimentary Galaxy S7 smartphones, North Korea decided to confiscate them from its athletes due to concerns that they would see South Korean electronic displays.
Samsung, the South Korean electronics company, offered special edition Galaxy S7 smartphones to the 11,000 athletes that were competing in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
No Galaxy S7 Smartphones For 31 North Korean Athletes
As they entered Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony, a spokesperson from Samsung told Radio Free Asia that the Galaxy S7 smartphones were taken away from 31 athletes from North Korea as it would allow them to, “access the Samsung exhibition, where the company displayed South Korean electronics.”
Analysts believe this is fitting with North Korea’s code of limiting outside world information to residents of the restrictive country. North Korean athletes also have limited access to other competitors, making their perspective insular.
Limited Communication With Others
According to The Washington Post, North Korean athletes were not allowed to visit tourist attractions and were told not to interact with others.
Kim Song I, a competitor in the women’s table tennis, admitted to not receiving a Samsung Galaxy 7 Smartphone although she did not say why
Defection, Outside Knowledge and Instability
Some have guessed that the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ has chosen to keep information limited due to fear of defection.
In the past, athletes from authoritarian regimes have sought asylum in democratic countries. For example, over recent years, 45 members of the Eritrean soccer team have defected from their country to more liberal societies.
Tight controls on North Korean athletes ensure their every movement is tracked. There have been no athletes from North Korea who have defected whilst competing in the Olympics.
By taking away the South Korean, Galaxy S7 smartphones, this further limits their knowledge of South Korea and the outside world, which they only learn about through propaganda.
Learning anything different from the information pedaled from the propaganda machine would lead to instability and criticism, which the North Korean system does not tolerate.
North Korean Athletes at the Olympics
Christopher Green, a North Korean expert said that the Olympics for North Korea, was a very important exercise in asserting itself in relation the rest of the world.
He said, the 32 year-old leader Kim Jong-un, “instructed the North Korean team heading for Rio to come back with five gold medals this time.”
This week, a selfie taken between North and South Korean athletes went viral when Hong un Jong (North Korea) and rival Lee Eun-ju (South Korea) captured a photo together.
Om Yun Chol won a silver medal in the men’s 57 kg weightlifting competition, which was shown on North Korean state television, according to the Ministry of Unification in Seoul.
North Korea has a total of 49 medals so far and has won medals at every single Olympic game.