Cable news has devoted considerable time to discussing the potential death toll from a nuclear war with North Korea.

Less noticed is an ongoing economic war with the other Korea, which has very lethal consequences for Americans.

In 2013, the U.S. government determined that South Korean conglomerates Samsung and LG were making washing machines in South Korea and Mexico and selling them in the U.S. below the cost of production.

It’s an old trick, and one that’s been illegal in this country since John D. Rockefeller used it to drive competitors of Standard Oil out of business.

Now, it’s Whirlpool, the iconic American appliance maker, that’s in danger of being driven out of business by the South Koreans. The livelihoods of Whirlpool’s 15,000 American manufacturing workers, particularly the 4,000 at the company’s Clyde, Ohio, washing machine factory, are at stake.

When the U.S. International Trade commission slapped a tariff on Samsung and LG imports from South Korea and Mexico to compensate for the under pricing, the two companies moved production to China to evade the tariff.

Samsung and LG then replaced their dumped washers from South Korea and Mexico with dumped washers from China.

In response, the Commerce Department last year ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect taxes on the Korean companies’ washing machines imported from China – at which point Samsung and LG moved their production again, to factories in Vietnam and Thailand.

The South Korean cartels are playing whack-a-mole with U.S. trade laws.

Whirlpool is asking the U.S. International Trade Commission and President Trump to stop the serial violations of Samsung and LG.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., now running for U.S. Senate, asked the ITC to stand down, citing LG’s plans to build an appliance factory in Tennessee and Samsung’s plant on the drawing board for South Carolina. She is afraid tough ITC action could cost her state and South Carolina the promised jobs.

Blackburn’s fears, however, run counter to the lessons of history.

It is precisely because President Reagan called for import quotas on Japanese cars in 1981 that Japanese automakers and parts suppliers began manufacturing in the U.S.

Nissan opened a plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, in 1983, and its North American headquarters is now located in Franklin, Tennessee.

This week, the ITC went ahead and ruled that the washing machine imports are seriously injuring U.S. domestic industry.

That gives President Trump the authority to impose tariffs, quotas and other restrictions on the companies’ imports, regardless of country of origin.

Sadly, the Korean caper is an all-too-common example of the unfair competition American companies face from foreign adversaries in many industries.

Samsung and LG are classic crony capitalist operators. They owe their power, prestige and very existence to special loans and favors from the South Korean government.

Beijing gives similar treatment to state-owned and “national champion” enterprises in China, rewarding them with low- or no-interest loans, cut-rate energy and technology that was pried or stolen from American companies. The goal: undersell the competition, drive them out of business and grab greater global market share.

China has brought the U.S. aluminum industry to the brink of extinction with such predatory practices.

The toll of this economic war with China, South Korea and crony capitalist regimes around the world is measured in more than dollars and cents.

It’s measured in lives.

Research by the National Institute of Health shows “a positive and significant association between job loss during the past year and average daily [alcohol] consumption, number of binge drinking days, and the probability of an alcohol abuse and/or dependence diagnosis.”

And a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that as the unemployment rate increases by 1 percentage point, deaths by opiate overdose rise by 3.6 percent, and emergency-room visits rise by 7 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control reports over 64,000 lethal overdoses in the U.S. last year. They are clustered in the areas hit hardest by unemployment and deindustrialization.

Stripped of jobs, pride and hope, unable to support themselves and their families, tens of thousands of Americans are literally drinking and drugging themselves to death.

These Americans are just as dead as if they were hit with a North Korean nuke.

The only difference is these deaths are not hypothetical.

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