Speaking in Beijing before departing for Pyongyang, Richardson described the visit as "a private humanitarian mission," USA Today reported Monday.
Richardson, who has traveled to North Korea several times in the past two decades, was expected to try to discuss the case of Korean-American Kenneth Bae, who has been detained for more than two months on a charge of "hostile acts against the republic," Yonhap reported.
"We don't think the timing of the visit is helpful, and they are well aware of our views," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week.
In Beijing, Richardson said, "This is not a Google trip, but I'm sure [Schmidt's] interested in some of the economic issues there, the social media aspect. So this is why we are teamed up on this."
Besides the former governor and Schmidt, the delegation includes K.A. Namkung, a Korea affairs adviser to Richardson, and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, among others, Richardson's office said.