As Carter and three former European leaders began their three-day visit, South Korea's top diplomat downplayed the significance and expectations of the private trip, Yonhap News Agency reported.
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told reporters he does not have "high expectations" about whether Carter could make North Korea change its mind on its nuclear ambitions.
Carter, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson were greeted at the Pyongyang airport by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.
It was not immediately known whether the Carter delegation, known as "The Elders," would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, but Yonhap reported the group, in an earlier statement from Beijing, had said it wanted to "see how we may be of assistance in reducing tensions and help the parties address key issues, including denuclearization."
Carter, a diplomatic troubleshooter, secured the release last August of an American detained in North Korea. Another American is currently being held in that country.
Carter's trip coincides with efforts to restart the stalled talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States on North Korea's denuclearization. There are also efforts to promote bilateral talks between the two Koreas, but Seoul first wants the North to take responsibility for the sinking of its warship last year and the shelling of a South Korean island, which together killed 50 South Koreans.
"The Elders" also plan to visit South Korea.
In a related move, a South Korean delegation is in Washington for discussions with U.S. officials on the nuclear talks and other bilateral and regional issues.