When the US and UN try to impose new sanctions on North Korea, as they do every few weeks, the question that inevitably rises is: what’s left to sanction. The Winter Olympics are underscoring just how far this has already gone.
Just participating in the hockey event is a challenge. North Korea is forbidden, by UN sanctions, from buying hockey sticks, because they’re “recreational sporting equipment.” In past events, North Korean participants have had to borrow all sticks, and return them before leaving.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. North Korea also has to find a third party to supply uniforms for them, because the uniform sponsor, Nike, is afraid that doing business with them will violate US sanctions.
Across North Korea’s participation, this is a recurring problem. The singers and dancers they agreed to send are coming by ship, but the ship may not have enough fuel. Buying fuel would be in violation of the sanctions, so the ship is stuck en route.
Samsung is giving all the Olympics participants Galaxy Note 8 phones, but some are claiming they count as “dual use” because of their processing power and GPS capabilities. The suggestion again is North Korea might be forced to give phones back at the end of the event.
Olympic games are meant to be a time to emphasize international cooperation, and while North Korea’s involvement started as an exemplar of sports diplomacy, increasingly it underscores just how obscene the anti-North Korea sanctions already are, and how petty they’ve become.