By Amanda Kaiser
with contributions from Crystal Tai
 on August 26, 2016
A Lotte Mart complex

The vice president of South Korea’s Lotte Group was found dead early Friday in an apparent suicide, according to press reports citing local police. Lee In-won was due to be questioned by prosecutors as part of an ongoing corruption probe into the company, according to the reports. He was reportedly found in a rural area east of Seoul hanging from a tree and a suicide note was found in a car parked nearby.

A Lotte spokesman confirmed Lee’s death. The company later issued the following statement: “Lotte Group is deeply saddened by the loss of our vice chairman. He dedicated [many years of] his life to paving the way for this company.”

Lotte, a company with its roots in the chewing gum industry, is a large conglomerate with considerable retail interests in South Korea, including chains of department stores and duty-free stores. This year it was supposed to finally complete the 123-story, 1,821-foot-tall Lotte World Tower but construction has dragged on and the project has become mired in scandals and glitches. A giant six-story mall is next door to the tower.

Back in 2014, Lotte Shopping outlined plans to open department stores in Shenyang, China and Hanoi, Vietnam as the latest component of its international expansion strategy. Lotte also has a presence in Beijing, Moscow and Jakarta.

Lotte Shopping posted a 2015 loss of 345 billion won, or $308.39 million, on sales of 29.13 trillion won, or $26.04 billion.