South Korea's substitute men

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MARCO WERMAN: Okay. If you've got too much to do and too little time to do it, who you gonna call? The answer, in South Korea, is a "substitute man. It's a growth industry, even in these slow economic times. Substitute men stand ready to do just about anything you ask, within reason, for a reasonable fee. Jason Strother sends us the story from Seoul."

JASON STROTHER: Cho Sang Hee revs up his engine, straps on a helmet and locks down a large box attached to the back of his motorbike. Embroidered on his green vest is his employer's name. Anyman. The service essentially rents out substitute men -- and women -- for just about anything you need. Cho has been doing this job for two years.

CHO SANG HEE [VIA TRANSLATOR]: We do whatever our clients ask us to do, especially the things they either don't like doing or are too busy to do themselves. They call us or text message us and we go right to their homes."

STROTHER: Cho runs about 20 to 30 errands a day. The 36 year old says most of the time, he's just asked to pick up takeout from restaurants that don't deliver. Cho is paid on commission. He makes around 2 grand a month. Anyman isn't the only company in South Korea that offers this type of service, but it's probably the biggest. The company has hundreds of substitute men across the country serving thousands of clients. And it advertises on television, and online.


This Anyman promotional video includes customer testimonials. Clients send in thanks for taking care of sick loved ones. A student studying in the U.S. expresses gratitude to Anyman for clearing out his school locker back in Seoul. While Anyman's motto is they'll do anything, company president Yoon Ju Yeol says his agents don't perform sexual favors. And they won't break the law. But he tells me one story that suggests they'll bend some rules.

YOON JU YEOL: [In Korean]

STROTHER: We had a call once from a pregnant girl who was fighting with her boyfriend because he didn't want to marry her, Yoon says. So she hired one of our agents to pose as her mother and pressure the boyfriend to propose. He says now they are happily married.

Yoon says his clients aren't the wealthy idle. They're mostly working women and mothers who need extra help. That's why Oh Chung Won started using Anyman a few years back. She says in Seoul, it's almost impossible to rely on friends and family anymore for support.

OH CHUNG WON: [VIA TRANSLATOR]: The traditional culture of a community coming together to help one another is gone in modern Korea. Everyone is so busy these days that it's rude to ask someone else for help. I don't feel uncomfortable asking a company like Anyman because I am paying for it."

STROTHER: Although these days, she's actually working for Anyman, fielding customer calls. Oh says the customers expect a high level of service and they sometimes forget that substitute men have other clients too. Anyman agent Cho Sang Hee says that's the biggest problem with the job. He's on call 24 hours a day and if something goes wrong, he doesn't get paid.

CHO SANG HEE [VIA TRANSLATOR]: There are times when I am so busy making deliveries that I am late, and they refuse to take what I got for them.

STROTHER: Cho gets a call from one of his regular clients and rushes out the door. He has to pick up her contact lens prescription and get it to her right away. Cho says he'd take me with him, but he doesn't want to get slowed down. He's worried that if the client has to wait too long, she'll just find another substitute man. For the World, I'm Jason Strother, in Seoul, South Korea.