By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, March 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is the world's least free country in terms of economic freedom for its people and businesses, an annual report from a U.S. think tank showed Thursday.
The North ranked 178th or last in terms of economic freedom, according to the report, the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation.
"The world's least economically free nation remains North Korea, followed closely by the failed socialist nations of Venezuela and Cuba," it said, without clarifying how long North Korea has stayed at the bottom of the list.
Out of possible 100, North Korea scored 5.2 in this year's index, up 1 point from a year earlier.
Venezuela was ranked No. 177 with 24.7 points.
South Korea, on the other hand, was ranked No. 24 with 74 points, unchanged from 2020, which placed it on a list of "mostly free" countries that include 32 other countries that scored 70 points or above.
The five highest ranked countries -- Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland and Ireland in that order -- were named "free" countries.
The U.S. was ranked No. 20, the lowest since the U.S. think tank began publishing the index in 1995.
Its score also dropped 1.8 points from a year before to 74.8 amid the devastating economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Notably, the United States saw a change in administrations this January. This is a pivotal moment for economic recovery around the world, but in the United States, the Biden administration's economic agenda will be crucial to the future of American economic freedom," the think tank said.
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