Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt will lead a private humanitarian mission to North Korea next week, Richardson’s office confirmed in a statement Saturday.
The trip comes despite public criticism from the U.S. State Department, which has said the visit was ill-timed in light of tensions stemming from North Korea’s recent rocket launch.
The delegation will also include Jared Cohen, the director of a Google initiative known as Google Ideas and Schmidt’s co-author on an upcoming book about how the Internet is changing the world.
Last July, Cohen organized a conference outside Los Angeles that featured nearly a dozen North Korean defectors, who gave harrowing accounts of privation and coerced criminal activity including drug sales.
Schmidt spoke at the conference and met with the group, according to panel moderator and North Korea expert Sheena Chestnut Greitens, now a graduate student at Harvard University.
Richardson, a former ambassador to the United Nations, has made numerous trips to North Korea. Many observers expect Richardson to seek the release of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American tour guide who was detained last year.