The family of a South Korean man who drowned saving two children in a deep river pool near Gisborne have asked for privacy to grieve.

At the request of his family the man's name will not be made public, police said.

The 40-year-old man died on Sunday afternoon when he dived in fully clothed to help two boys in difficulties at the bottom of the Rere rockslide, a natural tourist attraction 50km from the city, after they had gone down the slide.

"One of those boys was the man's eight-year-old son and the other a son of a friend, about the same age,'' said Senior Sergeant Maui Aben.


The man pushed them to the safety of the bank, then disappeared under the water himself.

His body was recovered by police divers about midnight on Sunday.

"The victim's family are extremely private people and they have asked us not to release their loved one's name,'' said Snr Sgt Aben.

"They have asked us to help them have privacy to grieve.''

The man, his wife and their two children were visiting the Gisborne area with a larger family group.

A member of the South Korean consulate is in Gisborne supporting the family.

"Victim Support continues to help them too.''

The man's Tauranga-based distraught wife told Rere residents who helped the family on Sunday that she was "proud of his heroic actions''.

A Rere resident, quoted in the Bay of Plenty Times, said the woman told her she felt "her husband was brave because he saved their son''.

The man's family reportedly lived in Tauranga while he worked in South Korea.