2 North Korean athletes and 1 defector among competitors in Paralympics in South Korea

North Korea is competing for the first time in the Paralympics.

The two North Korean athletes, both of them skiers, competed in their first event Sunday, finishing last, and will join another event Wednesday.

Also competing and getting press attention is a man who defected from North Korea and is now a reserve forward on South Korea's sled hockey team.

Choi Kwang Hyouk, 31, escaped North Korea 17 years ago, traveling weeks through China on crutches before finding freedom in South Korea. He struggled for years to adjust to his new capitalist home before finding the sport he says now means "everything in life."

"What's important is that I am wearing the colors of South Korea, not the flag of any other country. I feel that I have arrived 100 percent," Choi said.

Choi also said it was a surreal experience for him to see North Koreans at the athletes' village and at the games.

"They look like us and speak the same language," he said. But he said he has no plans to talk to them because he still feels a "distance with them."

But unlike at the Winter Olympics, the two Koreas did not march under a joint flag due to a row with Japan over a disputed island that was included on the united Korea flag.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.